Blogs

Larry Hodges' Blog and Tip of the Week will normally go up on Mondays by 1:00 PM USA Eastern time. Larry is a member of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame, a USATT Certified National Coach, a professional coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (USA), and author of  eight books and over 1900 articles on table tennis. Here is his bio. (Larry was awarded the USATT Lifetime Achievement Award in July, 2018.)
NOTE - Larry is on the USATT Coaching Committee, but the views he shares in his blog are his own, and do not necessarily represent the views of USA Table Tennis.

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

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

March 30, 2020

Tip of the Week
Tactics at the End of a Close Game.

Larry Hodges TT Academy Opens on Wednesday - Only Coronavirus-Safe Center in the World
=>(EDIT - After two days of fun, I've added certain bolds below.)
And now it can be told! This Wednesday I will be opening the Larry Hodges TT Academy. Its
purpose is to allow players from around the world to train during these pandemic times. I've
reached out to countries all over the world, and starting Wednesday, the national teams from
Italy, Germany, China, Japan, Korea, Vatican City, Canada, and USA will start training at the
Larry Hodges TT Academy. It's the only truly safe place in the world for them to do so.

For health purposes, there will be a number of rules followed. Players must always maintain an
obligatory nine-foot separation, the length of a ping-pong table. There will be a cleaning service
on hand at all times, constantly cleaning the tables and balls with Mr. Clean's new coronavirus
liquid sanitizer. Players will wear gloves and masks at all times while playing. We will stress
safety at all times. Instead of handshakes or fist bumps, we will do paddle high-fives.

A serious problem is that the coronavirus permeates a table tennis sponge. For this reason,
players will only use hardbat or sandpaper. The ITTF has approved this drastic measure for
rackets, and for the next six months those are the only approved racket surfaces to be used
in ITTF tournaments. Many of the best players in the world, including Fan Zhendong, Ma
Long, Timo Boll, and others have already made the switch.

Fan said, "I grew up reading Larry's articles. Training with him will be a dream come true. If
only he lived in China!" USA Champion Kanak Jha added, "I can't wait to resume training - I'm
on a red-eye flight tonight. I can't wait to try out the new hardbat Larry recommends!" "Without
Larry, where would we train?" asked 11-time Vatican City Women's Champ Paril Sofol. Some,
such as World Ping-Pong Champ Andrew Baggaley, have already arrived and started training.

Coronavirus and Table Tennis, and Other News

  • Coronavirus and Table Tennis. Everything is closed, clubs are closed, tournaments cancelled, but dogs everywhere are confused but very happy. But I've gotten a lot done - I finally had time to finalize two new books, with two more coming, plus lots of other articles, tips, and short stories.
  • US Nationals. You should be receiving news soon on its status - whether it'll be run as scheduled in July or postponed. (The latter is more likely.) If postponed, then USATT has some difficult decisions to make. Should they run it in December, and cancel the US Open? Run the Nationals and Open back-to-back or in conjunction? Or find some other time this Fall to run the Nationals? Stay tuned!!! (If news comes out, I'll add it here later.)
  • New Books. I have two new books that just came out this weekend, "Still More Pings and Pongs" and "Trump Tales: A Taunting." These are non-table tennis, so see segment at end of blog. In late April I will have another book coming out, "Larry's Adventures in Europe and Egypt" (231 pages, 251 pictures, I'm currently proofing it), about my seven weeks there last Fall, with limited table tennis. In May I'll have still another book coming out - and this one's table tennis! - "Still More Table Tennis Tips," ~200 pages, third in the series that includes Table Tennis Tips and More Table Tennis Tips. Yes, I've been busy during this pandemic!
  • Spoken English and Messages. I may soon forget spoken English. In the last ten days, until yesterday, I had just one short (five-minute) phone call, a few hearty discussions at a Wendy's drive-through ("extra onions, please"), and that's it. Yesterday I had a weird experience shopping at Giant, where I had invigorating disagreements with a guy preaching outside (blaming coronavirus on gays and lesbians), and with a cashier who didn't quite understand what six feet means. Here's my Facebook posting on this. I do get lots of emails and other messages, though some of them are rather weird and/or irritating. It seems everyone in the world has something they need me to watch or read, and if I watched and read all that people send me, that's all I'd do. Some take it rather personally when I don't. Some are even insulting. I also get many dozens of emails/messages each week which are basically from someone who just wants to say "Hi" or "Hey, what's up?" and exchange small talk, which I'm not really into. It means I have to either A) sit there and go through all the small talk until it's done, with me mentally tapping my foot, or B) try to work on something else, where every minute or two my thoughts are interrupted. (I have no problem with actual questions.)
  • Physical Training. My daily training involves five minutes of shadow-stroking with a weighted ping-pong paddle, and 23 hours 55 minutes of mostly writing, editing, reading, or watching something on TV or my computer. I do go for occasional walks outside. However, this morning Maryland Governor Hogan announced that, as of 8PM tonight (Monday, March 30), no one is allowed to leave their homes except for food or medicine. So I guess that means going for walks or jogging is out!

Breaking News - Tokyo Olympic, Paralympic Games Awarded New Start Dates: July 23 And Aug. 24 Of 2021
Here's the article.

New from Matt Hetherington
Some people, when faced with spending weeks indoors, alone and isolated from the world, turn into couch potatoes and watch the latest thing from Netflix or HBO. Matt? He's taken to doing daily table tennis coaching videos!

New from Samson Dubina

  • Skype Lessons - " As a service to the table tennis community, I'm going to be doing some FREE Facebook Live Q & A sessions as well as offering discounted skype lessons!  Want to join us for the facebook live?  ...join us every Monday at 1pm Eastern Time through the Samson Dubina Table Tennis Academy Page!  Want personalized coaching?  Try out a SKYPE!"
  • Fitness Friday (16:38)
  • 10 Ways to Perfect Your Serve
  • 11 Ways To Improve at HOME

Daily Table Tennis Workout with Eli Baraty
Here's his Youtube page - they start TODAY at 6PM UK Time (1PM US Eastern Time)

Dora Kurimay
She's a Sports Psychologist, or more formally, a Mental Performance Consultant. She's also a professional table tennis coach and former professional player!

Attitude is Everything
Here's the article by John Hsu.

Forehand Short Push | Return Backspin Serve
Here's the video (4:28) from the Malong Fanmade Channel.

Table Tennis at Home
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak, with links to video.

New from eBaTT

Exploring the Tomahawk Serve
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

USATT Interviews

USATT Club Features

Jenson Van Emburgh Emphasizes Positivity and Friendship Midst these Times of Uncertainty
Here's the USATT article by Michael Reff.

New from Steve Hopkins

New from the ITTF

New from PingSunday

How Many Athletes Just Lost Their Shot At Olympic Glory?
Here's the article from FiveThirtyEight.com. It turns out that table tennis has one of the highest rates of returnees.

Flatten the Coronavirus Curve - Ping-Pong Style
Here's the image! (Here's the non-Facebook version.) Apparently, we need less lobbing and more looping!

2020 World Table Tennis At Home Day!
Here's the ITTF Info Page. "In light of the global spread of COVID-19, World Table Tennis Day – the annual celebration of the sport, taking place on 6th April 2020 – will be taking on a very different form to previous years. Instead of the traditional social gatherings, casual table tennis activities and charity events taking place around the world, this time people will be engaged in the sport like never before via special initiatives planned on social media."
 ...
"The longest rally in history?! Create history and contribute to the longest table tennis rally! In true World Table Tennis Day spirit, anyone can take part! All you need to do is respond to this social media teaser by sending in your video of hitting a table tennis ball. One hit is enough, but be creative! You can use any random objects that you can find around the house to hit the ball, or why not perform a trickshot! Whether you’re in your bedroom, the kitchen, living area, garden, garage, or even outside, you can film your video from anywhere! The craziest, funniest video clips will be combined to create the longest ever rally online, which will be published on ITTF and ITTF Foundation social media channels on 6th April 2020."

Table Tennis Sports Betting Taking Over
Here's an article from Trib Live, Online Sports Bettors Turn to Pingpong as Leagues Postpone Seasons. "For bettors in Pennsylvania, that left pingpong, known professionally as table tennis, and Australian rules football." ... "Table tennis also dominated bets cast through that app, accounting for 79% of the total sports betting handle Sunday, the statement said."

Here's an article from ESPN about how, with casinos closing and sports events cancelled, they are starting to bet on table tennis. "U.S. sportsbook have begun offering odds on table tennis and sumo wrestling, among other sporting events. In Pennsylvania, online sportsbook BetRivers.com reported the TT Cup Men's Singles table tennis tournament was the most-heavily bet event offered Sunday."

Here's a Pennsylvania page where they are gambling on Men's Singles events in Russia! As explained in an email to me by Ron Klinger, "In case you are not familiar with betting terminology, if it's a negative number, you have to bet that amount to win $100. If it's positive, you need to bet $100 to win that amount. So for example, if it's -148, you have to bet $148 to win $100. If it's +105, you have to bet $100 to win $105. What's interesting about this is that they also have "in-game" betting odds, so you will notice that for the games currently being played, the odds change with each point that is scored!"

1960 Junior Table Tennis and 1959 Table Tennis Championships
Here's the video (4:38). It's hard to believe that those kids are now sixty years older.

Crazy Table Tennis - Sharon Alguetti
Here's the video (8:12).

Houston TTA
Here's their new feature video (1:55).

Wang Chen's Physical Training with Son
US (and formerly Chinese) table tennis star Wang Cheng has adjusted nicely to training at home during these pandemic times. Here are a series of videos where she does her physical training with her son!

Kevin Hart and Keegan Michael-Key Do Multiball Training with Matt Hetherington and Nikhail Kumar
Here's the video (15 min, but link should take you to 11:32, where they do table tennis for three minutes).

Nandan Naresh Shows Off His Ball-Bouncing Skills
Here's the video (15 sec)!

New from Pongfinity

River Pong
Here's the video (13 sec)!

Four-Chair Footwork Pong
Here’s the video (37 sec)!

Living Room Pot Pong
Here's the video (44 sec) to music!

Mini-Table Dog Pong
Here's the video (39 sec - but jump about 6 sec in).

Crazy Rally Shots
Here's the ITTF video (23 sec)! It's also a contest - send in your own entries!

Guy Uses Random Things To Play Ping Pong With
Here's the video (31 sec)!

Funny Table Tennis
Here's the video (4:24)!

Non-Table Tennis - Two New Books
I have two new books out, both coming out over the weekend. They are both short story collections. Hope you'll buy one or both! They are:

  • Still More Pings and Pongs, 192 pages. This is a collection of the best 25 science fiction & fantasy stories I've sold from 2016-2020. It is the third in the series, after Pings and Pongs and More Pings and Pongs. Alas, table tennis only shows up sporadically in these stories!
  • Trump Tales: A Taunting, 112 pages. This includes 11 SF & Fantasy stories I've written that satirize Trump, seven of them previously published, four new. If you are, somehow, a Trump fan, stay away! 

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March 23, 2020

Tip of the Week
Ten Table Tennis Truisms: Larry's Laws.

BREAKING NEWS - Olympics Postponed (Apparently)
Literally as I was about to post this, the following came up: 2020 Tokyo Olympics Will Be Postponed Due to Coronavirus, Says IOC's Dick Pound. So apparently the Olympics will apparently be postponed until 2021. Here's the original article from USA Today, though you may have to turn off your ad blockers to see it. "The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo will be postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, likely until 2021, International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound told Christine Brennan of USA Today." Pound says, "On the basis of the information the IOC has, postponement has been decided. The parameters going forward have not been determined, but the Games are not going to start on July 24, that much I know." However, let's wait for the official announcement from the IOC. (I've already got a flight and housing in Tokyo - I was going to do coverage for USATT and USOPC.) 

Coronavirus, Table Tennis, and the Olympics
Below are some articles about the status of the Olympic Games and other events. However, much of what you see publicly is just posturing. The first article, from the Washington Post, hints at the reality, which I've heard from others involved. There's a simple reason the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is hesitating to cancel the games, or even give a deadline for when they'll make the decision. The Olympics, like most major events, is insured. The IOC has paid a lot for that, and usually it's money with no return - but this year shows why insurance is important. If the Games are cancelled, then insurance is supposed to reimburse the IOC for the huge amount of money they will lose by postponing them. (Cancelling is off the table - see articles below.) But there's a catch - to collect, the IOC has to "make every effort" to hold the Olympics. If the insurance companies can show they didn't, they don't have to pay, or they pay a lot less. So the IOC, even if they are almost certain they will have to postpone the Olympics, can't say that or they'd likely lose billions of dollars.

The good news is that, under tremendous pressure from athletes, National Governing Bodies (for sports), and from Olympic Committees from various countries (with Canada and Australia already pulling out), to set a date for when they'll make a decision. According to the insurance documents, if they are going to cancel, they must do so at least two months before the start of the Games (July 23, so May 23). Most of us thought they'd wait until May 23, but under pressure, they now say they will make the decision by "mid-April." (See for example, the last article, from The Bleacher Report.)

Han Xiao and Letter to the Washington Post
Long-time USA Table Tennis Team Champion Han Xiao (also 4-time US Men's Doubles Champion) chairs the USOPC's Athletes' Advisory Council. He's been quoted a lot in some of these articles, including the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Olympics Everywhere. (Some of these may require subscriptions.) He's been one of the primary voices calling for the IOC to set a date when they'd make a decision, more transparency, and other issues. (I've been messaging with him on these issues - he started out at my club when he was seven, and is now 34.) Here is a letter Han wrote to the Washington Post.

Hi Barry [Washington Post Reporter],

We don't have an official vote or position, but based on what we are hearing from athletes we know the following about postponement/cancellation in general:

1. Athletes do not support the Games being canceled.

2. More and more athletes are open to the Games being postponed, especially as their training has been severely impacted with the closures of facilities and their competitions have been cancelled.

3. Athletes who have yet to qualify for the Games are concerned about how they will qualify for the Games given that many qualifying events are likely to be postponed or canceled in the near future.

4. We would like more certainty and transparency from the IOC in terms of the process that will be used to come to a decision and when that decision is likely to be made. Although it's correct not to speculate, the message that we are going full steam ahead is speculation. We still have no information about when the decision will be made whether to postpone, and how the IOC will make that decision. What conditions need to be met, for example, for the Games to proceed? This is the type of information that we would like in order to have certainty that athletes and the general public will be appropriately protected.

5. Athletes are in a no-win situation where they are trying to continue to prepare for the Olympic/Paralympic Games, but they are finding it more and more difficult to do so and will need to take more and more risks in order get the appropriate training. They will eventually be endangering both themselves and the public in order to prepare to compete, and it will not be their fault. The decisions the IOC is making and the way they communicate those decisions is not just affecting people 4 months in the future, it is impacting them right now. We hope that the IOC starts to acknowledge that and adjust their communication strategy.

These are just some basic thoughts. Not sure what aspects of this you're most interested in, but I'd be happy to talk later if necessary.

Han

Online Table Tennis Games
Stuck at home, unable to play table tennis? Here are a bunch of online table tennis games you can try!

Table Tennis Books
(Non-readers - skip this segment!) Now that you are all stuck at home, unable to play table tennis, here's your chance to catch up on your table tennis reading!!! Here's a listing of my current 13 books, with links to Amazon. Here are the table tennis ones that are currently in print:

I also have four more books coming out in the next two months! (You can thank the coronavirus for giving me more time to work on these.) The first one below is table tennis, the next three are not.

Here are some other books you might try:

USATT Clubs and Tournaments Status Updates
Here's the page with links to USATT Clubs Status and USATT Tournaments Status. Or you can use the direct links to both:

Messages from USATT on the Coronavirus Crisis
Here's the video (7:34) from the USATT Staff - plus it's your chance to sort of meet them! Starring USATT CEO Virginia Sung, Marketing and Communications Director Chad Knasinksi, Director of Para Programs Jasna Rather, Marketing Specialist Tina Ren, National Team Coach/Manager Teodor "Doru" Gheorghe, COO Mark Thompson, Director of Business Administration Tammy Kuypers, Safesport Specialist Josh Dyke, and High Performance Director Sean O'Neill. "With the COVID-19 affecting our way of life, we at USATT want to express our concern for the safety of our athletes, their family and friends through this tough time. We will get through this together and we want to say to Stay #PongPositive!"

The Last Points at the Nationals
Here's the video (9:42) - from Jim Butler, it shows the winning point at Nationals going back to 1976. "Former USATT magazine editor and current editor of ButterflyOnline.com News and WAB Club Sections Steve Hopkins, chatted with me about putting together a video for great American matches. I thought to myself, "what's my favorite part of a match?" I decided it's watching match point, because of the emotions we get to see from the athletes. The USA Table Tennis National Championships made its official debut in 1976. I researched and pulled all available footage from 1976 to 2020. USA Table Tennis started doing live streaming in 2011. Finding any footage before 2011 is hit or miss. Anyone you don't see before then is because there's no available footage of that match. If National TV wasn't there doing the broadcast before 2011, then in most cases we have footage due to Sean O'Neill filming it with his personal video camera, or due to the winning athlete's parents filming it. At the end of this video our two young stars, World #25 Kanak Jha and World #28 Lily Zhang, explain why the U.S. Championship Title means so much to American athletes.

3 Steps to Learn and Develop Reverse Pendulum Serve Technique in Table Tennis
Here's the video (11:34) from Matt Hetherington.

New from Samson Dubina

Tip Tuesday | Reverse Pendulum Serve
Here's the ITTF video (2:57) - with Elizabeta Samara from Romania, world #34 (formerly #13).

Five Tips to Make Adversity Plus Failure Equal Success!
Here's the article. Here's the short version - but I suggest reading the article.

  1. Remind your athlete this is a journey
  2. Teach your athletes a growth mindset
  3. Deal with the challenges the best you can
  4. Highlight ALL the positive things that happen 
  5. Make sure your athlete has a passion for what they do!  

Coaching and Coronavirus
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak.

Pandemic Ping Pong - How to Deal with Your Anxiety
Here's the video (1:46) from Dora Kurimay (sports psychologist and table tennis champion) - plus some improvised table tennis with a pot with books for a net.

US Olympic Trials Photos
Here they are! The first nine album here are all from the US Olympic Trials. The first eight albums are from Bruce Liu, which include: Women's, Men's Parts 1 & 2, The People, The Team, Liu Juan and Wang Huijing, Nikhil Kumar and Zhou Xin, and Danny Seemiller. The ninth one, titled "2020 US Olympic Trials," is by David Zhang, with 2773 photos. (No relation to six-time US Men's Champion David Zhuang.)

Back Off! – The Table Tennis Hokey Pokey
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

New from Steve Hopkins

USA Table Tennis Videos of the Day
They've started putting up Videos of the Day.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel

New from Black Jack Table Tennis

New from the ITTF

Dark Knight Rises! Lin Gaoyuan Top Shots
Here's the ITTF video (3:22).

Top Ten Points at the Qatar Open
Here's the ITTF video (6:22).

Olympian Tom Feng Steals Fashion Runway Stage
Here's the article and photo of the 2015 US Men's Singles Champion.

The Table Tennis Family
Here's the video (10:04) from Adam Bobrow.

Table Tennis Meets MAGIC
Here's the video (2:16)!

Mini-Paper Pong with a Finger Racket
Here's the video (12 sec)!

Funny Moments in Training
Here's the video (4:10)!

Beetle Baily Table Tennis
Here's their March 23, 2020 cartoon - yep, today! Here's a listing of all known Beetle Baily Table Tennis Cartoons from my Sept. 28, 2016 blog, which I've been updating as new ones come up.

Ways to Play Table Tennis During the Coronavirus Pandemic
These are great - you have to watch them all! (All are recent, no repeats.) Many are set to music.

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March 16, 2020

Tip of the Week
Practice Attacking the Middle in Rote Drills.

<Start Coronavirus Section>
CORONAVIRUS, CORONAVIRUS, CORONAVIRUS!!!

Everywhere you turn, all we hear is "Coronavirus, Coronavirus, Coronavirus!" It's like this Brady Bunch clip. So we'll start off with an entire section just on coronavirus items. As to me, I'm so used to going out to local restaurants in the afternoon where I combine lunch and 3-4 hours of writing-related work that I'm not sure what to do. Yesterday I finally ventured out and spent two hours at a Wendy's - but is this appropriate in the Age of Coronavirus?

Why the Coronavirus Hates Table Tennis
Here's the cartoon by yours truly! (Yeah, that's me, at the 1983 Pan Am Trials, age 23, where I made the Final 16. Thirty-seven years ago. Wow. Photo by Donna Sakai.) Also, a reminder that Coronavirus is an anagram of Carnivorous! (I think I was the first person- in the world? - to notice that when I put it in my blog last week. They are coming for us!!!)

USATT Announcements on Coronavirus
They've been busy. We also had to postpone the Regional Hopes Camp and Tournament that was supposed to be held at my club, MDTTC, this past weekend.

ITTF Coronavirus News

From Steve Hopkins

Japan's Efforts to Host China Table Tennis Team Face Challenges
Here's the article from the Japan Times (English version).

Cancelled or Postponed Events
I started keeping track of events cancelled due to coronavirus, and then I realized it would be much, much easier to just list things that are not cancelled. Like breathing, eating, sitting around watching TV (but carefully keeping six-foot distance from anyone else, lest they secretly have the coronavirus and are conspiring to infect you). Some cancelled or postponed events include (and many of these are repeated elsewhere in this blog):

What Is Left to Do for a Poor Table Tennis Player
Well, there's always online table tennis! I Googled "Online Table Tennis Games," and an enormous number of such games appeared. There is Hypergalactic Psychic Table Tennis 3000, which I wrote about last week. At the other extreme is classic Pong, good for many hours of mesmerizing mesmerization. But there's so many it was like looking into the abyss - just way, way too many for me. But I'm guessing there are some out there with some experience in these online games. And so...

...Is there anyone out there who'd like to create a Guide or Review of Online Table Tennis Games? On behalf of millions of table tennis players desperate to do anything pong-related during these hard times, we thank you! It would make a great USATT news item. If interested, contact me, and I'll try to get it published.

Who Says You Can't Play Table Tennis in the Age of Coronavirus?
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)
</End Coronavirus Section>

US Table Tennis Hall of Fame Class of 2020
Here are the four new members and the Lifetime Achievement Award Winner!

USA Table Tennis Board of Directors Teleconference
It happened last Monday, March 9. I listened in on the call - there were about 15 of us, including I think four other USATT members who were just listening in. (My only current "official" connection with USATT, besides being a member, is as a member of the USATT Coaching Committee, which I've also chaired.) It's an open meeting, so whatever was discussed outside of executive session is pubic.

After the roll call and call for conflicts of interest, there were updates on the US Olympic Trials, an upcoming USATT Audit (which they hope to move from May to April), the US Nationals (prospective almost done, over 100 events, I helped proof a draft of it), and SafeSport. Next came committee updates. This included the one vote of the meeting, one of major consequence - by a 5-0 vote, the interim USATT Board of Directors voted to "reconstitute" the High-Performance Committee. The committee (before the vote) was chaired by Carl Danner, with members Stellan Bengtsson, Wen Hsu, Erica Wu, and Khoa Nguyen. Presumably they will soon appoint a new chair and new members, though of course they could invite any of these members back.

There was also some discussion of the timeline for the upcoming USATT election for two board positions. Presumably there'll be a news item on that soon. If you are interested, keep checking the USATT news page! I'll post it here when it comes up. The board then went into executive session (to discuss legal or personnel issues), and so I, along with most other non-board members, had to get off. I was on the call for close to an hour.

Non-Coronavirus News from USATT - Yeah, there is some!

Oman Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event held in Muscat, Oman, March 11-15, with complete results, articles, photos, and video. It's probably the last major ITTF event for a while!

Polish Open
They played two days of the Polish Open, and then cancelled, due to coronavirus. That's a first! Here's the ITTF home page for the event partially held on March 11-12 in Gliwice, Poland, with some results, news articles, photos, and video. (See article by Steve Hopkins in Coronavirus section above.)

Other ITTF News

New from Samson Dubina

Table Tennis Footwork Challenge
Here's the video (4:45) from eBaTT.

Ball Control & Ball Brushing 1000 Reps Challenge
Here's the video (13:23).

New from Steve Hopkins (see his other two coronavirus-related articles above)

The Table Tennis Control Freak
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

"I Take the Winner!
Here's the cartoon! (The caption is the headline above in French. Here's the non-Facebook version.)

New from Pongfinity!

Non-Table Tennis - New Story in New Myths Magazine
Here's High Plains Centaur, a new fantasy story I wrote that was just published by New Myths. (Yeah, they pay me!) It's a humorous western as a gunslinging centaur canters into town to run for mayor - but has to face off with the current mayor and his two sidekicks, a vampire and the red-eyed unicorn! The other story I had that came out this month is Blood Wars, which came out in Galaxy's Edge earlier this month. It's about a world where vampires have taken over, with humans as farm animals they raise for our blood, with corporate wars between the major blood brands. It's a satire on the Coke-Pepsi cola wars.

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March 9, 2020

Tip of the Week
Proper Forehand Technique - Circling and From Side.

The Height of a High-Toss Serve
The question that has plagued the world for many centuries is just how high you should toss a high-toss serve. After all, the higher you toss it, the faster it'll be traveling when you contact it, giving you more spin, right? 

Actually, not really. Due to air resistance, any falling object in an atmosphere has a terminal velocity, but it varies based on its mass, cross-sectional area, drag co-efficient, air density, and gravity. For example, a little Googling tells us that a human body reaches terminal velocity in around 12 seconds - about 200 mph if falling feet- or head-first, about 125 mph if falling stomach- or back-first, with arms and legs spread out to maximize air resistance.

But how about a ping-pong ball? I found this online Terminal Velocity Calculator. For a ping-pong ball, the mass is 2.7 grams. The cross-section area is easy to calculate - it's the area of a circle with the diameter of a ping-pong ball, 40mm. Since A=Πr^2, and with radius 20mm, the cross-section area is about 1256.6 m^2. Some Googling found that the drag co-efficient for a sphere is about 0.5. Plugging these in, and using Earth's gravity and air density at sea level, we find that the terminal velocity of a ping-pong ball is about 18.55 mph.

But this doesn't tell us how high we have to throw the ball to get this maximum velocity. So I turned to my brother, Dr. Steven Hodges, a physicist and non-TT player (but great sailor!). He created this Excel file that does it for us.

So how high do you have to throw the ball to get to that magical 18.55 mph? Here's how my brother answered it - the first paragraph tells you most of what you need to know, the next rest are technical details.

Really, really high; falling objects approach terminal velocity asymptotically so, like Zeno, they never quite get there. But there is an answer to the practical question, how high do you need to throw the ball so when it falls back to the paddle (assuming the starting toss and paddle heights are the same) it is at, say, 90% terminal velocity.  The answer to that question is, using the parameters you provided below, about 20 ft.  If you want 99% of terminal velocity, throw the ball 40 ft high.

The attached spreadsheet shows the details.  Inputs are in red in cells C4 thru C7.  Terminal velocity is in C17 (ft/s), E17 (m/s), and G17 (mph).  The time from the ball's highest point (i.e., the height you throw it to, your input C6) to when it's back at the paddle is C19.  

If you change height thrown (C6) from 20 to 10 ft, the ball will only be at about 75% (between 74 and 79%) terminal when it gets back to the paddle.  You can find this by looking for the row where the height y(t) goes negative - y=0 is at the paddle; the fraction of terminal velocity is in column D.  

You can also play with the coefficient of drag to get an idea of how robust the model is. If CD is increased, you don't have to throw the ball as high to get a given fraction of terminal velocity, and vice versa.

Of course, this is all an approximation.  Probably good enough for what you're looking for, but the reality is much more complicated because the drag coefficient, air density, and even the ball shape, are not really constants - they vary during the fall.  So more exact solutions require simulations.  Here's an example that hints at the complexities involved: 
https://www.grc.nasa.gov/www/k-12/airplane/dragsphere.html 

So there is our answer! In practical terms, I think most high-tossers throw the ball up at most ten feet, which gets the ball to 13.9mph. (If you throw much higher than this, you start to lose control and can't keep the ball low or skim it finely for maximum spin. Also, it's harder to be deceptive since if the ball is moving too fast, you can't do deceptive racket motions around contact and still control the grazing contact.) However, I am pretty sure some players have been known to toss the ball up to 20 feet (16.7mph), though it's probably hard to control. My club has 18-foot ceilings, and for fun I've done tosses that reach them - but since the toss is measured from where you toss the ball from and contact it, about three feet above the ground, that means a 15-foot toss. 

Here's video of the high-toss serve of Ma Long of China, the world #1 almost continuously from 2010-2019. Alas, I couldn’t find a video of anyone showing just how high it goes. (When they video top players, they zoom in, not out.) But you can tell it goes pretty high by how long he has to wait for it to come down. Here's a pretty high one by Shan Xiaona of Germany (world #50, formerly #14), but it also cuts off the highest part of the serve.

USATT Regional Hopes Camp and Tournament at MDTTC
See the link in Omnipong in the USATT section at the top for The 2020 USATT Hopes Program / Road to LA - MD. It's this weekend at my club, Maryland Table Tennis Center. I'll be coaching in the camp on Friday and Saturday, and running the Hopes Tournament on Sunday. This is for kids born in 2008 or after.

USA Table Tennis Teleconference Scheduled for Monday, March 9, 8:00 pm EDT
Here's the info page. Yes, it's tonight (Monday night)! I will probably listen in. As I wrote in my comment below this, I hope they will publish the agenda in advance (UPDATE - it's been added!), as well as put in the names of the current board in the Board Listing, which currently only has two of them, Niraj Oak and Tara Profitt. There are at least five right now - three others were named in this USATT news item on Jan. 31, Richard Char, Kristy Connelly Campbell and Kelly Watson. Even if they can't get their pictures up right away, it would be helpful to update the names, since they've been on the board for over five weeks now.

Coronavirus and Table Tennis
It's getting pretty serious! Many clubs around the country and the world have cancelled events because of it. Because there were three cases of it here in Montgomery County, MD, some of the local Chinese Schools closed this past weekend, and because of parents' concerns, our advanced junior program (Talent Development Program) cancelled their group session this past Sunday. My Thursday and Sunday Beginning Classes normally have 14 and 10 players, but both had only seven this time. For both, I was told it was because of coronavirus concerns. (In both of these junior classes, the focus was on pushing and smashing.) I've heard that players have taken to fist bumps or even "air bumps" rather than shaking hands - and I've adopted fist bumps as well.

I'm heard private estimates that it's 50-50 the Olympics in Tokyo will be postponed or cancelled, though I have no idea how accurate these estimate are. (I'm supposed to fly out to do USATT coverage on July 23.) Here's an article on it from the BBC, Will coronavirus cancel the Tokyo 2020 Olympics? (Long-serving IOC member Dick Pound "last week admitted a decision to cancel could be made as late as May.") But the World Championships have already been postponed, and the Italian and Japan Opens in April and the Australian and South Korea Opens in June have also been postponed. (Here's the ITTF calendar where you can see which ones have been postponed.) C'mon, people, wash your hands - we don't want to postpone or cancel the Nationals in July!!!

Am I the only one to notice that "coronavirus" is an anagram for "carnivorous"? Very dangerous virus indeed!

USA Olympic Team Trials
In my blog last week I linked to the 16 articles I wrote on this. While there will always be debate on the format, I actually liked this format. After the various preliminaries (which got the players down to 16, for both men and women), there were two groups of eight. After they played it out, the top four went to a Final Four. The good part? The large number of high-quality matches was incredible for bringing out the best from the best, who rarely play that many that close together. It's like a month of intense training condensed into 3-4 days. Of course, the downside of such RR formats is that there's always the problem of dumping in the final rounds - partially fixed by having players from the same family or club play early, and having the top seeds play each other at the end.

I heard someone thought I got paid a bunch for this trip. Actually, I was a 100% volunteer - I didn't get paid a penny except for expenses. I came two days early and stayed two days late to do some sightseeing, but I paid for my hotel, food, and everything during that time.

As to the sightseeing in the Santa Monica/Los Angeles/Hollywood region, I visited the Walk of Fame, Hollywood Sign, Griffith Observatory, Santa Monica Pier, Hard Rock Café, Ripley's Believe It or Not, Guinness Book of Records, Hollywood Wax Museum, Paramount Pictures, La Brea Tar Pits, Los Angeles Zoo, Los Angeles Natural History Museum, California Science Center, and spent the last day at Universal Studios.

I was also on a 70-minute teleconference on Tuesday morning with the press people from the USOPC (interfering with my time at Universal Studios, grumble, grumble). Assuming the Olympics takes place on time, I'm flying to Tokyo on July 23 to do coverage for USA Table Tennis (again, as a volunteer, with only my expenses paid - I think USOPC is covering much of that, not sure).

Invitation to Members Interested in Committee Service
Here's the USATT press release. They are looking for the following:

  • Ethics and Grievance Committee (3-5 members, including the Chair)
  • Nominating and Governance Committee (1 member)

Forehand Loop Demo
Here's the video (3:30) by Dora Kurimay.

New from Tom Lodziak

New from Samson Dubina

New from eBaTT

Together and Apart, Eugene Wang and Zhang Mo Book Tokyo Places
Here's the ITTF article. There was a USA-CAN Mixed Doubles match for the North American Mixed Doubles spot at the Olympics, with Zhou Xin and Liu Juan for USA, Eugene Wang and Mo Zhang for Canada. Canada won, 4,7,-10,5 - here's the video (30:37, play actually begins around 4:30).

Qatar Open
Here's the ITTF page for the event held in Doha, Qatar, March 3-8, with complete results, articles, pictures, and video.

ITTF News
It's been two weeks since I last linked to their articles (since I was away last week), so why not browse the ITTF News Page?

New from Butterfly

World Table Tennis
Here's the ITTF's new World Table Tennis. See their Vision/Mission page, Key Benefits page, and Info Video (1:24).

Ponglista
Here's their page - "Stay in the loop, find everything table tennis. Search new or used equipment, places to play, coaches and events."

ICC Table Tennis Center Hosts USATT Hopes Tour Appropriately Coinciding with Olympic Trials
Here's the USATT article by Michael Reff.

Local Senior Athletes Find a Lifetime Sport in Table Tennis
Here's the article, featuring the Washington DC Table Tennis Center, and past owners Charlene Liu, Changping Duan, and new owner Khaleel Asgarali.

11-year-old Syrian Table Tennis Player Hend Zaza Qualifies for Olympics
Here's the article and video (1:26) from CNN. It mentions that she's 155th in the world, but that's misleading - that's her ranking for Cadets (under age 15).

Anyone Can Try Out for the U.S. Olympic Table Tennis Team, So We Did — and Here's How It Went
Here's the article from Fox Sports - but the author was not just any player, it was Martin Rogers, rated 2288 - a top player by most standards, just another amateur by Olympic standards.

USA Table Tennis Bans Hitler from Olympic Trials
Here's the video (20 sec)! Yep, I put this together, and linked to it before, but thought this was a good time to link to it again. (I also wrote, "Releasing Hitler"!)

Hypergalactic Psychic Table Tennis 3000
Here's the info page and video (1:44) for this new table tennis game! Here's their press release. I emailed with the inventor, and she wrote me, "One cool thing is that you can actually play against Al Alcorn, the original creator of Pong (the very first video game!) - when we reached out to him about the game, he jokingly sent us a voice message saying 'Oh my God, what have you done to my Pong?!' but also really loved it and thanked us for caring about Pong, and said 'have fun with it'..."

Here's what one reviewer wrote:
"Hypergalactic Psychic Table Tennis 3000 is a game of pong with a few twists. It starts out as simple pong but you soon start leveling up which allows you to increase your size and learn skills. Keep playing and battling and you'll soon be shooting fireballs, teleporting, and reading minds. There are a variety of enemies that you face over the course of the game. Each game you play to three vs the AI. There are two hundred levels in a loop and after that you can either new game plus it or you can start from scratch. You can also go through romance dialogues with the bosses. You hit a boss every ten levels or so; so that makes 20 romancable paddles. You can stylize yourself with fancy treasure you find along the way which is neat."

New from Coach Jon

New from the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association
They've been busy, holding their regionals.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel

2019 ITTF Parkinson World Table Tennis Championships
Here's the highlights video (2:46). I coached Navin Kumar at the tournament - Silver in Doubles, Bronze in Singles. (You can see me briefly at 1:43 on the right.)

Chen Xingtong | Ask A Pro Anything
Here's the ITTF video (5:05) from Adam Bobrow.

New from Pongfinity
No humorous videos this week - instead, it's video of one of their players, Miikka O'Connor (world #845, but #439 last year), from the Finnish Championships! He made it to the final before losing to World #95 Benedek Olah.

Kim Taek Soo vs. Jang Woojin Exhibition
Here's the video (11:38), both from South Korea. Woojin is world #16. Kim was a big star in the 1990s - here's his Wikipedia entry. Check out his Medal Record on the right, and you'll notice something extraordinary. At the Olympics, he won two medals (Singles and Doubles), both Bronze. At the World Championships, he won nine medals - one for Singles, four each for Doubles and Teams - and all nine are also Bronze! Then you go to the World Cup for Singles, and he has three medals - all Silver! He did win Gold at the World Cup and Asian Championships, twice each for Doubles and Teams. I believe he reached #3 in the world. He is now the head coach for the South Korean Men's Team.

Engineers Design 3D-Printed Table Tennis Paddles for Oculus Touch Controllers
Here's the article and videos!

Amazing Kids - Game Show Table Tennis in China
Here's the video (3:19)! It's in Chinese with English subtitles.

Three-Paddle Pong
Here's the video (16 sec) featuring a "cheating" Matt Hetherington.

Z Table Pong
Here's the video (3:39)!

Ellen DeGeneres Challenges Child Ping-Pong Star Yiyi as Melissa McCarthy Refs
Here's the video (4:17)!

Happy Table Tennis Birthday
Here's the video (1:23) of the table tennis birthday song!

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March 2, 2020

Tip of the Week
Drill the Fundamentals and the Specifics.

Santa Monica and the US Olympic Trials
I spent the last five days here in Santa Monica, California, doing coverage of the US Olympic Trials - 16 articles in all. See links below or visit the USATT News page. I flew in last Monday night (Feb. 24), and did sightseeing in LA and Hollywood for two days, did four days of coverage, and now I've got two more days of sightseeing before I fly home Tuesday night on an 11PM flight. So far I've visited the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Hollywood Sign, Griffith Observatory, Santa Monica Pier, Hard Rock Café, Ripley's Believe It or Not, Guinness Book of Records, Hollywood Wax Museum, La Brea Tar Pits and Museum, and did the Paramount Pictures tour. Today I'm visiting the LA Zoo and the Natural History Museum of LA County. Tuesday I'm taking the Universal Studios tour and theme park.

Had a great four days working with the USATT and US Trials Staff, the players, and with master photographer Bruce Liu! Here's a picture of us at work (here's the non-Facebook version) - but if he's in the picture, who's taking the picture? (Thank you, Kathleen!)

So just a short blog today. I'll be back next Monday. But here are direct links to all 16 of the articles I wrote on the Trials - find out who made the US Olympic Team! Plus a few items below that.

2020 US Olympic Trials Articles

Happy Birthday Ping Pong Song
Here's the video (25 sec)!

Non-Table Tennis - New SF Story!
The new issue of Galaxy's Edge has my story, "Blood Wars." While I called it a "SF" story above, it's really a mix of SF and fantasy. It's about a world where vampires have taken over, with humans as farm animals they raise for our blood, with corporate wars between the major blood brands. It's a satire on the Coke-Pepsi cola wars.

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February 24, 2020

Tip of the Week
Fundamental versus Creative Tactics.

US Olympic Trials
Here's the home page for the event, which is Feb. 27 - March 1, in Santa Monica, CA (near Los Angeles and Hollywood). It includes the event Prospective (essentially the entry form, with rules and procedures), Schedule, Seedings, Playing Format, Selection Procedures and Policies, and info on buying Tickets. Here's the Omnipong listing, which includes an incredible 20 men rated over 2500 and eight women rated over 2400. I hope all these players will be there for the Tournament meeting this Wednesday at 6PM - has there ever been a stronger gathering of US players in one room than that would be?

I'll be doing online coverage for USATT. I leave this afternoon, arriving at LA airport around 8PM. There'll be no livestreaming of the event - apparently NBC Sports has the rights and won't allow it unless we pay them a lot.  I'll probably write my first article on Wednesday night, on the Tournament Meeting and the Draws. My articles should go up on the USATT News Page.

I'm spending Tuesday, much of Wednesday, and the following Monday and Tuesday, doing sightseeing (at my own expense). I've been to LA a number of times, but never did any real sightseeing. My plans includes seeing the Hollywood sign; the Hollywood Boulevard and Walk of Fame (including the Hard Rock Café); Los Angeles Zoo; Griffith Observatory and Park; La Brea Tar Pits; Natural History Museum of LA County; Santa Monica Pier & Aquarium; and Universal Studios.

The Elite Pipeline
A good pipeline is better than a great one that's broken in one part. And once you have a good pipeline without those broken parts, you can turn it into a great pipeline. But the pipeline is only as strong as its weakest part.

To develop truly elite players that can challenge the best players in the world, I believe a developmental pipeline needs four parts. I've often lamented on how USATT would sometimes focus on one part of the pipeline or another, often depending on the politics, or, sadly, the age of aspiring players whose parents were in influential positions. (Not a current or recent problem, fortunately, but there have been some horror stories.)

For most of USATT's history, one broken part of the pipeline was obvious - there simply weren't enough aspiring juniors training full-time with elite coaches, the lifeblood of elite development. And so the rest of the pipeline was damaged through lack of players before we even got started. Why was this? In 1992, MDTTC opened as the first successful full-time training center. (Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, and I founded it.) At the time, there were no others. As recently as 2007, there were only about eight. And now we have over one hundred. (I tried to get USATT involved in this in 2006, and resigned my job with them when they showed no interest in my "One Hundred Training Centers in Ten Years" plan.) We've gone from perhaps five full-time professional coaches in 1992 to probably around four hundred. There was a time when you could count on two hands how many elite juniors were really training full-time. Now the number is closer to a thousand.

Result? Our best juniors are now among the best in the world. And yet, we often lose them right when they are on the verge of challenging the best players.

So the first part of the pipeline is getting pretty good. It's not as good as, say, China, where they have far more kids training. But like I said, it's pretty good - and it gives us a fighting chance against anyone - maybe even China! But it is not easy for USATT to create such a complete pipeline due to their limited money and staff, but we can still strive to do so, taking advantage of the far greater combined resources of all of the full-time training centers, coaches, and parents in this country.

I believe there are four parts to a USATT National Developmental Pipeline. All four need to be developed to the highest level - the overall pipeline will only be as strong as the weakest of the four. They are:

  1. The Numbers Game. This part is very simple - you have to have a large number of training centers with junior programs, coaches, elite coaches, and juniors in training. This leads to a large number of kids getting introduced to the sport - and the more you have here, the more likely you are to find ones with the qualities it takes to become a champion. Note that I mention both "coaches" and "elite coaches." You need both - a large number of coaches, and enough elite coaches to work with the ones that early on show promise. They way to get elite coaches? If you have lots of coaches, the creme will rise to the top and you'll end up with some great ones. There needs to be ways to train these coaches so they can, like players, reach their potential. Many former top players, and others who have spent years coaching or in training programs, become excellent coaches.
  2. The Hopeful Hopes. This is where you turn these large numbers of kids into a smaller core group of kids, roughly ages 9-12, who train many hours with elite coaches and in general have a great training environment. They play tournaments and quickly are on the radar as the ones to watch. Having lots of training centers with elite coaches and junior programs is key. The USATT Hopes program is a great part of this program.
  3. The Long Junior Slog. This is that long period, roughly ages 12-18, where promising kids train, Train, and TRAIN, and compete, Compete, and COMPETE, and go from promising kids into contenders at the highest levels. They learn to compete with the best of their age both in the US and from around the world. To make this happen, they should be part of junior programs that train together. Those who do not have such a "peer" group usually burn out, fall behind and lose interest, and we lose them. Even if they continue, their ceiling is lower since they don't have peers pushing them to excel. During this long "slog" many kids fall behind their international peers for this reason, though not so much in recent years. These elite juniors also need training camps with their peers from around the country - there's nothing like training with your peers to spur your own training!
  4. The Last Stage - the "Right When You Are About to Make It" Moment. This link is problematic. After training for ten years or more, an 18-year-old kid is now approaching the highest levels - and suddenly has to choose between putting all that aside and going to college, or to continue to train and put off college. It's a difficult choice, and most choose college. (Some do both, but you are at a severe disadvantage if you go to college full-time and train on the side, while your rivals are training full-time. Going part-time might work better.) From an elite development point of view, this is a key stage where players go from almost making it big, to actually making it big. This is where it's important to have overseas opportunities where they can turn professional for a few years, training full-time and playing in a professional league, often in Europe, like nearly a dozen US players are currently doing. (USATT, via their High Performance Directors, has greatly helped in finding these connections, and is one of the most valuable things they do for this pipeline.) If they do this from age 18-22, they can probably reach their potential, and perhaps continue to play professionally if they choose. A key here is that we need to find ways to encourage elite players to do this, while finding ways to make it easier for them to later transition to college or (for some) perhaps coaching table tennis professionally.

Weekend Coaching
In the Thursday Beginning Class we introduced them to pushing and to down-the-line shots. In the Sunday Beginning Class we introduced them to spin serves and down-the-line shots. For both the pushing and spin serves demos I bring out the JOOLA spin balls so the players can better see the spin.

For the Saturday night junior league - which is half league, half training/coaching - several of the players needed work on specific issues, and I spent most of the two hours feeding multiball. I did the same on Sunday - lots of multiball this weekend! Some were interactive where I'd feed a specific shot to one player to get a rally started, then let them play out a point. But there was a focus on fundamentals. One girl has a bad habit of not really backswinging much when looping, so we spent a bunch of time on that. Another is great at smashing relative low balls, but misses over and over when the ball gets above his head, so we worked on that.

Hopes in Houston
This past weekend in Houston was Stop Three of the six regional stops of the USATT Hopes Program. (I'll be coaching at and running the tournament for Stop Six in Maryland.) Here are some links:

Table Tennis Community Fundraiser to Support Sally Boggan
Tim asked me to post the following update: "Sally's still left-side paralyzed, can't speak, has a feeding tube in her stomach, but can think and write well enough to respond to Tim's readings and do a daily puzzle with him." He also asked me to give "a big Thank You to everyone who's been and continues to be so encouraging to Sally and me. We much appreciate it." The GoFundMe Fundraiser has raised $6434 so far, with 58 donors. (Sally is the wife of USATT legend Tim Boggan.) I thought I'd run this one more time - Tim really appreciates the help, and it's a serious situation, both medically and financially.

History of USATT - Volume 23 - Chapters 29 and 30
Here is Chapter 29 ("International Play") and Chapter 30 ("April - May Tournaments") of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis. (Page includes links to previous chapters.) Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com. Volume 23 is 491 pages with 1841 graphics and covers all the wild things that happened in 1997-1999 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Hungarian Open
Here is the ITTF home page for the event held in Budapest, Hungary, Feb. 18-23, with complete results, articles, pictures, and video.

2020 ITTF-Africa Top 16 Cup
Here is the ITTF home page for the event held in Tunis, Tunisia, Feb. 24-26, with results, articles, pictures, and video.

New from Samson Dubina

7 Steps to Improve Your Forehand Loop (with Ferenc Horvath)
Here's the video (11:45) from Tom Lodziak.

New from eBaTT

New from Steve Hopkins

US Table Tennis Athletes Association
Here's their page about a USATT & USTTAA Potential Collaboration, from Michael McFarland.

The Class of Clearwater – Sunrise Table Tennis
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

ITTF News

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel (MLFM)

Jimmy Butler - Memory Lane
Here's the video (3:01).

Best Points of Russian Championships
Here's the video (4:37).

Nine Seconds of Shirt Changes and a Bottle Dunk
Here's the video!

Team China Cell Phone Tournament
Here's the video (90 sec) - they really did this!

Dive Pong
Here's the video (41 sec)!

Balancing Trick Shot
Here's the video (10 sec)!

Funny Moment of Table Tennis
Here's the video (4:30)!

Zillions of Animated Table Tennis Gif Images
Here they are!

Ping Pong Battleship Game
Here's the video (3:18) from Pongfinity! "You popped my battleship!"

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February 17, 2020

Tip of the Week
Footwork: Wide Stance and Two-Step?

US Olympic Trials and Round Robin Format
I blogged about this last week. I also said I'd contact the Trials Referee (Joey Yick) and ask what the rule is if a player drops out in the middle of the competition. There have been past Trials where it was ruled that if a player dropped out at any time, none of his results counted. This meant that, for example, in a Final RR of eight players, if a player had played six of his seven matches but was out of contention (as would typically be true of at least half the players), then if he had any wins over players in contention, he might be able to dramatically affect the results by simply faking an injury and dropping out. (Imagine this in the hands of an unscrupulous player.)

However, the ruling is that all matches played count, but once a player defaults, he's out of the Trials and all subsequent matches are defaults. As I've written before, there is no truly fair Trials (or elections) - there's even a math proof of this I studied in college many decades ago - so all you can do is go for the fairest, and then try to ignore nitpickers (like me!). In this case, the potential problem is a top player goes out and beats a bunch of contenders, then drops out for whatever reason. His wins over those players stand, but players he hasn't played gets a win over him. This is a potential huge advantage to some players. However, as noted, all Trials have problems in some way. Ultimately, if you want to make the Olympics (i.e. Top Two), then you have to beat nearly all of the other players.

In many cases, the case I gave above won't affect things. For example, in the Final Eight RR, suppose Xin Zhou (top seed) goes undefeated and gets the second Olympic spot, leaving the others to battle for the third and final one. (Kanak Jha already has the first, by virtue of his world ranking, and so doesn't have to try out.) Suppose Hodges defeats Seemiller in the first match, and then defaults the rest of his matches. (Ow, my shoulder!!!) Suppose Seemiller goes 5-2, with losses only to Zhou and Hodges. Suppose Sharon Alguetti also goes 5-2, losing to Seemiller and Zhou, but defeating Hodges via default. At first, it seems unfair to Seemiller, since he had to play the invincible Hodges while Alguetti got a default. After all, if Hodges had played everyone, he'd no doubt have beaten Alguetti, dropping him to 4-3 and putting Seemiller ahead of him. But it doesn't matter - in the example where Hodges defaults, Seemiller and Alguetti were both 5-2, but since Seemiller won head-to-head, so he still comes out ahead of Alguetti. So the order is unchanged - other than the fact that if Hodges hadn't had that shoulder problem and dropped out, he and Zhou would have gotten the two available spots at the Trials, and Seemiller and Alguetti could only sit back and admire their great play.

However, there are also cases where defaults do make a big difference, especially in the final round, where a player can affect things by defaulting or dumping.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to doing coverage of the US Olympic Trials. I'm flying out next Monday night (probably leaving for the airport shortly after I finish my blog), and will do a bit of sightseeing in LA and Hollywood on Tuesday before switching to coverage on Wednesday, with the Trials starting Thursday morning (Feb. 27), and finishing on Sunday (March 1).

Here's the home page for the event, and here's the final list of players - gosh, they left me out!!! So Seemiller and Alguetti are safe. (And here I was planning on beating all three Alguettis...)

Weekend Coaching
For the Thursday Beginning Class, the focus was on Spin Serves. Surprisingly, this is one of the funnest parts for many of the kids. They get pretty excited the first time they serve a backspin ball and make the ball come to a stop or even bounce backwards! There are 14 in the class; about half were able to do that at least once. Afterwards, we did a backhand-to-backhand competition - the record was 59. (There was no Sunday Beginning Class since it's President's Day Weekend - when we run such classes on three-day weekends, about half the class doesn't show.)

We started a new season for the Talent Program at MDTTC, which is the advanced junior program. Normally they play lots of matches on Saturday (most of them using various rules so they have to work on specific aspects of their games), but for this weekend, it was mostly training, both days. For me, it was Multiball Weekend as I spent most of both sessions feeding multiball. A key thing for all coaches is to have a large multiball library in their head so they can throw all sorts of drills at players. For beginners, it's more basic, but for advanced players, you sometimes want to throw more variations at them.

On Sunday, during the first hour of the session, there was a Parents meeting, where former MDTTC junior star Barbara Wei gave a talk on her experiences as an up-and-coming junior, her years on the USATT cadet and junior girls' teams, and best practices for parents in such situations. Her dad then gave a talk from his point of view and what he learned from those years. Alas, I was coaching, so didn't get to hear any of it.

Reads per Blog and Tip
Here are recent stats.

  • Feb 10 16,447 reads
  • Feb 03 17,799 reads
  • Jan 27 15,164 reads
  • Jan 20 16,635 reads
  • Jan 13 14,854 reads
  • Jan 06 15,875 reads
  • Dec 09 54,052 reads - but this covered nearly a month!
  • Dec 02 16,628 reads

Portugal Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event held Feb. 12-16 in Lisbon, Portugal, with results, articles, photos, and video.

2020 US Nationals Returns to the Great City of Las Vegas
Here's the USATT article. Can't wait to go back!

Lily Yip Table Tennis Center Paves the Way on the Road to LA 2028
Here's the USATT article, by Matt Hetherington, about the Hopes event (for kids born in 2008 or after) held last weekend. (I was one of the coaches - I wrote about it in last week's blog. That's me in the back-left of the group picture and wandering about in the background of both videos below.) Here are two videos from the camp:

  • Lily Yip (2:41) - "The first Road to LA Hopes Camp kicks off at Lily Yip Table Tennis Center with some words of encouragement from 2-time US Olympian Lily Yip!"
  • Jayden Zhou (1:55) - "North American Hopes representative Jayden Zhou sharing his past experience at the ITTF World Hopes week with the first camp group of the 2020 US Hopes Tour!"

Spin and Smash Provides Perfect Home for US Hopes Talents on the Road to LA 2028
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel (MLFM)

New from eBaTT

New from Samson Dubina

Decoding Backhand Technique
Here's the video (3:10) featuring South Korean star player (now coach) Joo Se Hyuk. In Korean with English subtitles.

How to Change Course Using Backhand
Here's the video (8:15). In Korean with English subtitles.

How to Attack High Backspin Balls
Here's the video (5:36) from Tom Lodziak.

A Little Footwork Training?
Here the video (20 sec) of Hugo Calderano of Brazil (world #7). What, you can't do this? What's wrong with you?

Walking and Chewing Gum in Table Tennis
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

New from Steve Hopkins

USATT Extends Thanks to Coronavirus Aid Donors and Supporters
Here's USATT article.

Chinese National Team Training in Qatar amidst Coronavirus Outbreak in China
Here's the video (11:05). "Due to the widespread outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus across China, the ITTF and Qatar Table Tennis Association helped to arrange a high-quality training environment for the Chinese National Team in Doha with just a single day’s notice."

ITTF News

Nittaku Monthly Pongcast - January 2020
Here's the video (17:05).

Beltway Plaza's "Have a Heart" Table Tennis Tournament
Here's the flyer/poster for the event held this past Saturday to benefit the American Heart Association. Navin Kumar was the featured player. They raised $5383. Here's a picture of Navin and others with the big check! (Here's the non-Facebook version.) You can see more pictures and videos on Navin's Facebook page.

Ping Pong and Going Strong: Seniors Still Got It at Table Tennis Club in Medford
Here's the video (3 min) from NBC in Boston.

Episode 11 - Everybody's Trying for the Olympics
Here's the podcast (76 min), episode #11 from Table Tennis Talk.

Ping Pong, Vol. 1
Here's the new table tennis graphic art book, coming out on May 19 - looks interesting! But sort of expensive at $29.99, though it is 520 pages. Not sure when Vol. 2 comes out. "Ace high school table tennis players push their passion to the limit in this story of self-discovery, told by Eisner Award winner Taiyo Matsumoto. Makoto "Smile" Tsukimoto doesn’t smile even though he’s got a natural talent for playing ping pong. As one of the best players in school, all hopes are on him to win the regional high school tournament, but winning is not what Smile really wants to do. Will the fierce competition to be number one bring out his best or drive him away from the game? Ping Pong is Taiyo Matsumoto’s masterwork reflection on friendship and self-discovery, presented here in two volumes, featuring color art, the bonus story Tamura and an afterward by the original Japanese series editor."

Tomahawk Racket Flip Serve
Here's the video (11 sec), from Adam Bobrow - watch closely!

Handy Looper
Here's the video (30 sec) - watch the kid on the left about five seconds in, when he serves. He drops his racket, but unfazed, follows his serve with a winning forehand loop using just his hand!

Table Tennis Anytime Anywhere
Here's the video (14 sec)! Who needs rackets or balls when you have a picnic table and a little imagination? (Shadow practice like this is actually very good practice.)

Furniture Pong
Here's the video (12 sec) - you too can use a few cabinets to work on your side-to-side footwork!

Table Tennis Tricks - This guy makes it look so easy
Here's the video (28 sec)!

Richie Rich Ping-Pong Covers
I found two:

Sonic the Hedgehog: Ping-Pong Player
I saw the movie a few days ago - and loved the table tennis scene! Below are various speedsters playing table tennis "alone" by racing in a circle around the table.

Sumo Ping Pong
Here's the video (6:21) from Pongfinity!

***
Send us your own coaching news!

February 10, 2020

Tip of the Week
Stepping Around the Backhand Corner.

US Hopes Camp and Tournament in New Jersey
I spent the weekend coaching at the Regional Hopes Camp and Tournament at the Lily Yip TTC in New Jersey, about four hours north of me. The event was the first of six such regional events, help in six consecutive weekends, for players born in 2008 or later (so mostly age 11 and below). The next five will be in Ohio, Texas, California, Massachusetts, and Maryland. (I'll be coaching at that one and running the tournament.) Here is the USATT Hopes page, with full info and schedule. (There's a chance I might be going to the Ohio one next weekend in Columbus to coach.) There will then be a National Hopes Camp and Tournament (April 22-26 at the Samson Dubina TTC in Akron, OH, for players who make the Final Four at any of the Regionals - once a player does that, he cannot complete in future ones), a North American Hopes Camp and Tournament in May (time and place not yet set), and finally an International one (in August, held overseas).

The Lily Yip TTC did an excellent job with the camp and tournament, with Lily Yip (Olympian), Cory Eider, Judy Hugh, Matt Hetherington, and a number of local practice partners. Lily gave a motivational speech at the start about what it meant to be an Olympian. Everything ran smoothly and professionally and the training was excellent. Here's a photo gallery by Matt Hetherington. 

I went up to coach the three Maryland kids, Stanley Hsu (11, 2289, top seed, #1 in country), Mu Du (11, 2012, second seed, #4 in country), and Ryan Lin (10, 1825, seventh seed, #13 in country but still eligible next year). Arjun Kumar (8, 1394, #3 in country in Under 10), who is from Philadelphia but trains on Sundays at MDTTC, was also with us, coached by his dad. Here's a group picture. Back: Wang Qingliang and I. Front, L-R: Arjun, Ryan, Mu Du, Stanley.

When I walked in the door, I was recruited to join the coaching staff, so I joined them for all the three training sessions on Friday night and Saturday, 7.5 hours, both as a "walk around" coach and feeding multiball.

The Lily Yip TTC is two floors with (for training) 26 total tables. They divided the players into two groups, with the top half on the first floor, the others on the second floor. I spent the first session with the lower group, and the next two sessions mostly with the upper group (which Cory mostly ran, with my assisting). They had lots of interesting drills. One that stuck with me was a variation of up-down tables that Cory used. Both here and at my club in Maryland (MDTTC), we often have the kids compete with improvised games. For example, a player must serve short backspin, receiver must push long (sometimes to a specific spot), and the looper has to loop (sometimes to a specific spot), then play out point. I usually do this with standard 11-point games. Here, they had them play old-fashioned games to 21, with each player serving five times. Why? Because it's easier to get into a rhythm when you do it five times instead of just two times, and so you learn better.

In the tournament, the Maryland kids did well. (Coach Wang Qingliang, a fellow coach from MDTTC and a member of the USATT National Coach Development Team), drove up Saturday night to coach along with me on Sunday.) Here are results. The final was Stanley versus Mu Du, with Stanley winning 3-1. Ryan didn't make the final eight, but he won the Consolation Event for third-place finishers. (There were 19 boys in the tournament, with three groups of five, one of four, with the top two from each group advancing to the quarterfinals, the next player to the Group Three Consolation, and so on. There were five girls, who played a complete RR.) Here's a picture of the Boys' Final Four. L-R: Judy Hugh, Mu Du, Cory Eider, Stanley Hsu, Dhruv Chopra, Krish Gandhi, and Lily Yip.

US Olympic Trials and Format
They will be held in Santa Monica, CA, Feb. 27 - March 1. I'm looking forward to them - I'll be doing coverage, so prepare yourself for a barrage of articles!

In recent years, the format for most Team Trials has been versions of the Single Elimination format. With this, they would run a single elimination tournament for (usually) three consecutive days. The winner each day makes the team and doesn't take part on subsequent days. The winner of the first day is #1 on the team, and so on. If there are four spots, then the two finalists on day one make the team, as #1 and #2. (I think there have been variations of this.) The US Olympic Trials will only select two players, so with this system, they'd only have two single elimination events, so not as many matches as with RR. Some players might only play two matches, though if a player goes 0-2, he probably wasn't going to make the final two. 

The strength of this system is that players rarely have incentive to dump matches to help another player. The weakness is that a player could (for example) lose in the first round the first day and then win the second day, thereby making the team, while another player might finish second both days and not make the team - despite the latter player having a much better overall record. For example, if I remember correctly, Sharon Alguetti made the finals two out of three days at the 2016 North American Olympic Trials, yet didn't make it. (I can't find online results - the links on the 2016 North Olympic Trials page are no longer valid. But email me if you have them!)

This year at the US Olympic Trials they are going back to Giant RRs. At first glance, this seems the fairest way - after all, everyone plays everyone else, and the best players will have the best record and so you get the best players on the team. That's what usually happens - but I put usually in italics because that's not what always happens. For example, a player who is out of contention has less incentive to fight hard and might even dump matches to friends and teammates to help them make the team. (Worse yet, there might be bribes involved.) Or a player who has clinched his spot may dump to a friend to help him make the team.

I know of at least three instances where players have dumped matches either to help a friend or hurt someone they didn't want to advance. The most infamous became know as "Black Saturday," circa forty years ago, when a player out of contention openly dumped to a player to help a friend and practice partner. At one Trials, I watched two players openly calculate how many games they needed to dump to a player to ensure another player wouldn't advance. At another I watched a player who had clinched his spot dump a match to someone to keep another player from making the team - he denied it, but it was obvious to us watching.

Or a player may be injured at some point and have to drop out - so the players getting the default have a big advantage over those who might have lost to this player before he dropped out. Or they might completely remove this player's results - in which case it can completely change the results of who makes the team. I couldn't find anything in the procedures for what happens if a player drops out after play some matches.

At one Olympic Trials a number of years ago, there was a final RR of twelve players. One player was out of contention and had one match left. He complained of an injury and wanted to drop out. The rules at the time stated that if a player didn't play all his matches, then all of his matches became defaults. I was doing coverage, and quickly pointed out to the referee that if he did so, another player who had clinched his spot would suddenly be off the team, while another who had been eliminated would take his place. In the end, the "injured" player played his match. (I think the "standard" used to be that if a player played the majority of his matches and defaulted the rest, they all count; if he dropped out after playing less than half, then none count. But I don't know what the rules are for these Trials. I will check on this later. (There might be a rule covering this in the ITTF handbook, but nothing came up covering this when I searched using the words "default" and "withdrawal." I emailed the US Olympic Trials referee asking this question, and will post here when/if I get a response.)

Trying to decide on a format isn't an easy decision. I remember studying in college the mathematical proof that showed that there are no truly fair Trials or Election procedures - all have problems as well as advantages. So all you can do is choose the one that one considers least flawed.

Here's a Facebook posting by five-time US Men's Champion Dan Seemiller, which he also posted in the comments section at the US Olympic Trials page. For those not on Facebook, here's what he wrote.

"I believe the format is flawed. A huge R/R is conducive to manipulation. Some players when they play will still be in it and others already eliminated. Not a level playing field. In the final stages it is likely no final. It is possible and I've seen it happen where friends have to play friends and a 3rd player is relying on the results. I find it hard to believe the Olympic committee OK'd this format. Two S/E tourneys have been done the past few trials and no controversy whatsoever. You want to lose so be it. In the R/R a player can drop out with a sore shoulder and their results are dropped changing others' positions. The Olympics are S/E why not the trials?"

Universal 2020 ITTF Pan America Cup
Here's the ITTF home page for the event held Feb. 7-9 in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, with complete results, stories, pictures, and video. See also:

CCB 2020 Europe Top 16 Cup
Here's the ITTF home page for the event held Feb. 8-9 in Montreux, Switzerland. See also:

Spanish Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event held Feb. 4-8 in Granada, Spain, with complete results, stories, pictures, and video. See also:

Table Tennis Community Fundraiser to Support Sally Boggan
The GoFundMe Fundraiser has raised $5834 so far, with 54 donors. (Sally is the wife of USATT legend Tim Boggan.) I thought I'd run this one more time - Tim really appreciates the help, and it's a serious situation, both medically and financially. This help has really raised Tim's spirits!

History of USATT - Volume 23 - Chapter 28
Here is Chapter 28 of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, "Jan - March Tournaments." (Page includes links to previous chapters.) Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com. Volume 23 is 491 pages with 1841 graphics and covers all the wild things that happened in 1997-1999 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Dan Seemiller's 2020 Olympic Preparation
It's approaching showtime for the US Olympic Trials (Feb. 27 - March 1), and the legendary five-time US Men's Singles Champion Dan Seemiller could still use your help! Here's his GoFundMe page ($13,180 raised out of $15,000 needed) and his book, Revelations of a Ping-Pong Champion. Can a 65-year-old make the Olympics? Or perhaps take out a few contenders? Stay tuned!

Talking with Dan Seemiller
Here's the podcast (65 min) from Table Tennis Talk.

USATT News (with some duplication from the tournament segments above)

New from Steve Hopkins (with some duplication from the tournament segments above)

New from Samson Dubina

Should I Train or Play Matches
Here's the article. I like the book they recommend!

Bad Technique, Unorthodox Technique, Good Technique, Great Technique
Here's the article from Tom Lodziak.

Table Tennis Pro Training (with Ojo Onaolapo)
Here's the video (21:51) from Louis Levene.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel (MLFM)

Pitchford & Walker Talk Mental Health & Well-Being
Here's the article and podcast (21:46) from the English table tennis Olympians.

3 Steps to Master the Around the Net Shot
Here's the video (8:49).

Ma Long Slow Motion
Here's the video (4:17).

Ask A Pro Anything | Tomislav Pucar
Here's the ITTF video (4:42) from Adam Bobrow, with the world #32 from Croatia.

Quadri Aruna and Dina Meshref Head Seeding in Tunisia
Here's the ITTF article.

Xu Xin wins STIGA Point of Day 4 | 2020 German Open
Here's the video (33 sec) as he pulls off a behind-the-back shot and wins the point against Ma Long!

The Ping Pong Pecking Order
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Family Trick Shot Night
Here's the video (16 sec), with Arcot, Sid, Nandan Naresh and Sangita Santhanam! (This runs fine on my laptop, but strangely, when I run it on my desktop it comes out choppy.) Here's a bonus trick shot from Nandan (6 sec)!

The Biggest Table Tennis Fail of 2020 So Far
Here's the video (26 sec)!

Chair Pong
Here's the video (15 sec)!

Table Tennis Alone
Here's the video (6 sec)! I often do this trick in exhibitions. (Pongfinity also demonstrates this and other ways to play solo - see link below.)

Table Tennis with Hospital Patients
Here's the video (26 sec)!

Funny Table Tennis Cartoon
Here's the cartoon! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

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

Forrest Gump Ping Pong
Here's the video (3:52) of Seven Ways to Play By Yourself!

***
Send us your own coaching news!

February 3, 2020

Tip of the Week
Did He Really Force You Out of Position?

USATT Introduces New Rating Access Subscription
Here's the USATT article. Here are my thoughts on this. One disclosure - I initiated and co-founded the USATT Singles League with Robert Mayer in 2003. (See the Singles segment, though I also created the Team League segment.) "Winner stay on" dominated club play back in those days, and this was a successful program to convert clubs from that into more league-based play. At the time I was told by most that changing the culture of table tennis in the US was impossible and that table tennis leagues just wasn't part of it. Well, now it is! (I will save writing about the benefits of league play for another time.)

I spoke on the phone with USATT CEO Virginia Sung on this issue for about an hour last week, as well as on future league plans. She was very interested in ideas for creating a membership-based USATT League, so I put together the draft of such a plan. The focus was learning from how it is done in European table tennis leagues and tennis in the US (where memberships are measured in the hundreds of thousands); finding USATT incentives to join (I came up with some); and making it a gradual process. More on this in a later blog. (The membership-based league would be in addition to the free one, not a replacement.) I sent the draft to her and to Robert Mayer. 

Here is the pertinent part of the announcement of the Ratings Access Subscription policy, which I've consolidated into one paragraph:

"Effective February 1, 2020, access to the USATT Rating System and Individual Rating display for both Tournaments and Leagues will only be available to current USATT members and, for a twelve-month period, to players who participate in a USATT Sanctioned Tournament on a Tournament Pass or who sign up for the new Rating Access Subscription. The twelve-month Rating Access Subscription will cost $25 and, beginning February 1, will be available for purchase through an individual’s USATT on-line profile portal. The new Ratings Access Subscription will have no effect on current USATT members and their benefits."

Here is the primary reason given:

"The new Rating Access Subscription is part of an effort by USATT to prioritize services for current members and active tournament participants. This effort includes an on-going project to upgrade all USATT web-based services, which will include the reduction of duplicate entries in the tournament and ratings systems and the integration of critical dates for completion of the SafeSport Tutorial and required Background Checks."

The first sentence means that USATT is trying to increase the benefits of USATT membership, hopefully leading to more members, plus of course added revenue from those who either join or pay the $25 rating access fee. I don't see how this will lead to an upgrade in USATT web-based services in the ways mentioned in the second sentence.

Here are the pluses of the new policy:

  • Incentive to become USATT member. This seems to be the primary motive - to increase the value of a USATT membership. It's a worthy goal - but is this the way to do it?
  • Added revenue. But I don't think many are going to do this, so this is rather minor. From my discussions with USATT people, this is not the motivating factor.

Here are the minuses:

  • Ill will. This has already started - just read the comments under the announcement, or at the MyTableTennis.net forum (and its unscientific yet somewhat telling poll), at TableTennisDaily, and at the OOAK table tennis forum. I've heard similar irritation from many others.
  • Loss of potential members. Many non-members start out as league players, and they first go to the USATT site to check their league ratings – and that’s how they find out about USATT. (As noted above, a small percentage may join or pay the $25 fee, but probably not many. I'm told there are 35,000 league players on the USATT database, with 5000 of them active in the past year, of whom about 2000 are USATT members. Alas, until recent years only contact info for league directors was kept, so there isn't contact info for most of the 35,000.)
  • Leagues switching to non-USATT systems. Based on the comments posted, a number of league directors are already looking into this - and for every person who posts these thoughts, there are many more who aren't posting. Since there will always be free online ratings systems, it's better for USATT to have the masses use there's instead of some non-USATT one.
  • Former members who want to come back can't look up their ratings before their first tournament, so don't know what rating events they can enter. We want to make it as easy as possible for past members to come back to USATT. (I hope we're doing regular emails to them!)

Given the above, I think the minuses far outweigh the pluses. I really hope USATT will reconsider this, and instead look into other ways for creating a USATT membership-based league system, similar to what is done in in European table tennis and in tennis in the U.S. The key, I believe, is that it has to be a gradual transition, with various USATT incentives. But I'll write about that another time. I've already sent USATT my draft of how to create such a membership-based league, but it won't be an easy process.

One thing - I've heard some say that USATT is just greedy with this new policy. But that makes no sense. No one from USATT is making extra money by charging any type of rating fee. If they do get more money for USATT, that allows USATT to better fulfill their mission. Isn't that a good thing? The question isn't one of greed, but whether it is better for USATT - both as an organization and for its membership.

What is USATT's mission? Here it is, directly from the USATT bylaws, is: "The mission of USATT is to support, grow and inspire the table tennis community, and to provide resources that enable athletes to achieve sustained competitive excellence and pursue Olympic and Paralympic success."

On a side note, I was at the board meeting when they created this new Mission Statement. I'm not big on this type of thing, but the "support, grow and inspire the table tennis community" was my idea! (I think the wording was tweaked some.)

2020 Olympic Selection Procedure Update Announced by USA Table Tennis
Here's the USATT news item. Basically, the new rules are simple - the highest world-ranked man and woman from the ITTF February rankings (which go up Feb. 4, after German Open) make the Olympic Team, while the top two men and women at the US Olympic Trials get the other spots (3 men, 3 women). Here's the link to the ITTF rankings. Almost for certain Kanak Jha and Lily Zhang will get the respective men's and women's spot from world rankings. Kanak is world #27, and no other USA men are close. Lily is #26 to Wu Yue's #33, but both lost in the same round at the German Open, so their rankings should stay the same, relative to each other. Lily and Wu were both on the 2016 Olympic Team, as was Kanak.
UPDATE - in the new rankings that went up Feb. 4, Lily is #28, Wu Yue #30, so Lily makes Olympic Team, Wu Yue has to compete in Trials.) 

So Wu Yue will have to try out for the other two spots. It's going to be a tight battle. Juan Liu, rated 2650, will almost for certain get one of the spots. (Prove me wrong!) Assuming that, battling for the final spot would likely be Amy Wang (2499), Huijing Wang (2498), Wu Yue (2483), Crystal Wang (2482), Wang Chen (2450), with a few others perhaps knocking on the door, including junior girls Tiffany Ke 2297, Sarah Jalli 2294, and Linda Shu 2220. (Here is the List of Entries from Omnipong. All of those mentioned above are already entered except Amy Wang, who I believe will be entering soon. There might be more entries, including four other junior girls rated from 2302 to the 2414-rated Rachel Sung. I'll be at the Trials doing coverage for USATT.)
NOTE - The online listing of entres for the US Olympic Trials no longer shows players who entered but have not paid yet, so some of the players listed above as entered are no longer showing up, and there might be others entered that aren't shown because they haven't paid. 

This ends a rather long conflict between two opposing groups in USATT. I will call one group the "Selection" side, which wanted the "perfect" team, and so leaned toward more selections, less trials. This allows them to choose the best players against international competition, not just who is best against other US players or who played well the weekend of the Trials. It also allows them to take doubles into consideration. This is actually how it is mostly done among the best teams in the world, which are competing for medals and want to make sure they send the team that gives them the best chance. However, my argument on this has always been that since we don't really have serious medal contenders at the world-class level (are we ready to take on the top Chinese and others?), we shouldn't be in the business of choosing among non-contenders.

The other group I will call the "Trials" side, which wanted the "fairest" system, which means a Trials where the players decide completely on their own, based on results. There are always problems here - a player may get sick or injured, some are very good against other US players that they are used to playing against but not so good internationally, a player may get hot or cold on the given weekend, and it doesn't take doubles into consideration. Yet, I think this is the best system for now.

Both sides mean well, but it's led to a year or more of extreme nastiness. Alas.

I argued early on that a team where over half the players are selected rather than make the team in a trials or some other direct performance-based method wasn't sustainable. There would be just too many complaints, which is exactly what happened. The culture in the US on this type of thing is a bit different than in other countries.

There really is a third group, which I will call the "Compromisers." I'm one of those. These are the ones that think there should be perhaps one player selected, to make up for the problems outlined above for a Trials. The new system is sort of a compromise between that and the "Trials" group - by giving a spot to the #1 ranked USA man and woman, it makes sure our "best" player is there, but doesn't take into consideration doubles, or the problem if the #2 player comes up sick or injured or just doesn't play well that one weekend. There's also the problem that ITTF rankings aren't as accurate as they used to be, since they started taking participation into account a year or so ago. But if our players aren't yet "serious" medal contenders, then we shouldn't worry about that right now.

If we ever do have multiple serious medal contenders and need them together on the team so they can win in teams and doubles, as well as singles, then we might want to rethink all this. For example, no Trials is going to keep the best Chinese, Japanese, or Germans off their team at the Worlds. But we're not at that level yet. At some point we might have to define at what level is a player a "serious" medal contender. Or, if you are firmly in the "Trials" group, then perhaps not.

Weekend Coaching and Writing
Last Thursday I went to the Lake Forest Mall Eatery to get some writing done. I go there or to a nearby Wendy's about 5-6 times per week, either for lunch or dinner, and stay for several hours, writing or editing. Both have lots of open table space, wi-fi, and . . . Dr Pepper! At Lake Forest, I always get pepperoni pizza; at Wendy's, I get the barbecued chicken sandwich.

After this morning's Tip of the Week, I need exactly ten more to reach the magic 150, which I can then put together as the next in my "Tips" series. I stayed at the eatery for six hours and wrote eight Tips of the Week! (I even managed to work on a science fiction story as well. I then went straight from the mall to MDTTC to coach the Thursday Beginning Class.) Hopefully you have already bought Table Tennis Tips and More Table Tennis Tips! (Each had 150 tips.) Well, in April or May I'll have "Still More Table Tennis Tips"! Sure, you can read them for free here, but in the books I put them in a logical progression, organized by category, so it's a lot more helpful.

My Thursday and Sunday Beginning Classes are both still in synch. The focus was serving rules, fast serves, and forehand & backhand live practice. Spencer & Ronald Chen, and Todd Klinger assist on Thursdays (14 players), Lidney Castro on Sundays (ten players).

On Sunday we had Trials for the upcoming Talent Development Program, the advanced junior program at MDTTC. The program currently has about 25 players. Seven players tried out, with a series of table tennis tests, skill tests, and physical tests. Along with other coaches, I had a clipboard and a chart (which I'd created for this), where we marked off scores for each category. I also did the receive test for all of them, where I threw a number of basic serves at them so we could test their receive skills. Selections will be announced soon.

This next weekend I have substitutes for my coaching as I'll be going up to the Lily Yip TTC in New Jersey to coach Stanley Hsu (11, 2289, #1 in US in Under 12 - but he has an injured finger and might have to drop out), Mu Du (11, 2012, #4 in US in Under 12), and Ryan Lin (just turned 10, 1825, #13 in US in Under 12, #4 in Under 11) at the Hopes Regional Tournament. (There might be one or two others from my club going - not sure yet.)

German Open
Here's the home page for the event held Jan 28-Feb. 2, in Magdeburg, GER, with results, news, pictures, and video. Here are two articles featuring USA's Kanak Jha.

All-Japan National Championships: A Complete Review
Here's the ITTF article. "In the final he [Yukiya Uda] prevailed over the more famous Tomokazu Harimoto." "The Empress Cup went to Hayata Hina who beat the more experienced Ishikawa Kasumi in the final stage with a dominating 4-1. The Champion beat Ito Mima in the semifinals (maybe the real final), while Ishikawa overtook Hashimoto Honoka."

USATT News

New from Samson Dubina

How to Get More BACKHAND POWER – with Craig Bryant
Here's the video (6:47) from Tom Lodziak.

Want to Do a Table Tennis Tour in London?
Here's the info page from WorldStrides. "In partnership with professional Table Tennis player, Khaleel Asgarali, WorldStrides Sports will send a group of enthusiastic table tennis players on an international tour to London."

New Videos from MaLong FanMade Channel (MLFM)

Table Tennis Tidbits #49: Remembering Jim Scott
Here's the article by Robert Ho.

For the Love of Table Tennis: A brand new table tennis center comes to Atlanta
Here's the article by Coach Jon. (I've added them to my ongoing list of full-time professional table tennis centers in the U.S., which now number 103.)

Table Tennis Logic – The 49ers / Chiefs Superbowl
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

History of USATT - Volume 23 - Chapter 27
Here is Chapter 27 of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, "Readers Speak Up." (Page includes links to previous chapters.) Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com. Volume 23 is 491 pages with 1841 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1997-1999 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Kobe Bryant in Commercial
Here's the video (35 sec)! It's in French, but I think they are advertising Actuping TV. And here's A story about Kobe Bryant playing — and quickly mastering — pingpong illustrates his insane competitiveness (from Business Insider).

Comeback Serve and Target Practice
Here's the video (6 sec)!

Timo Boll vs. Adam Bobrow
Here's the video (5:20)! One is the former world #1; the other is the voice of the ITTF and table tennis entertainer extraordinaire!

Sidewalk Pong Prophets
Here's the video (3:31)!

Table Tennis Movie Clip
Here's the video (5:22). It's in Chinese with English subtitles (usually), has some interesting serves, they are (mostly) using sponge rackets but with hardbat sounds, and it sort of just ends - it's apparently from a movie, but I have no idea what movie. But it's hilarious!

Pingpongman and Pingpongkid
Here's the video (1:42) of Scott and Austin Preiss doing an exhibition.

Peach Pong
Here's the video (13 sec)! (Or are those apples?)

T-Pong
Here's the video (7:44) from Pongfinity!

Non-Table Tennis - Science Fiction Sales News
I sold two science fiction stories this past week, "Space Force: First Victory" and "Space Force: The Poem," both to the anthology Alternative Space Forces. The first tells the story of our first battle and victory over invading aliens - with a twist. The second is a humorous poem about the exploits of Space Force.

As noted in previous blog, my story "Releasing Hitler" came out in Galaxy's Edge on January 1. Here's the first line: "In the year 1,001,945 AD, long after superweapons have caused the human species to go extinct, the next-to-last prisoner in Hell goes before the parole board."

Here's a review from SFRevu: "It is 1,001,945 AD and all but two people have been released from Hell. The penultimate person released is Adolph Hitler. He leaves expressing regret for his sins. Who the last person released is and what happens next, makes this a great little story." (Don't worry, Hitler gets his comeuppance - but how? Read the story and find out! It's pretty short.)

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January 27, 2020

Tip of the Week
Looping Slightly Long Balls.

I'm Going to Santa Monica and Tokyo!!!
I will be doing online coverage for USATT of both the US Olympic Trials in Santa Monica, CA (Feb. 27-Mar 1) and the Olympics in Tokyo (July 25-Aug. 7). I've done the coverage at (pause while I do a quick count...) approximately 20 US Opens, 20 US Nationals, 12 US Team Trials, two World Championships, and dozens and dozens of 4-star events.

The entry deadline for the US Olympic Trials is Feb. 15, but here is the list of entries so far - they'll continue to grow until the deadline. Here's the entry form, which includes info on who makes the Olympic Team. The #1 world-ranked USA players automatically qualify, so Kanak Jha n the men's side [world #27] and either Lily Zhang [#26] or Wu Yue [#33] on the women's side will automatically qualify and so won't be at the Trials. Rankings might change after the German Open. Once we reach the deadline, perhaps we'll have a WWW USATT news item - "Who Will Win?"

The info on the entry form about making the Olympic Team might change, since there is a Wang Chen grievance against USATT about the selection process - she's posted about this numerous times on Facebook. I'll post a link to any news on that when/if it comes up. 

I agreed to do the coverage at both events as an unpaid volunteer. However, I'm taking advantage of the opportunities to do some sightseeing. I plan to arrive in Santa Monica several days early and stay a few days late (at my own expense) so I can tour nearby Los Angeles and Hollywood - Hollywood Boulevard and Walk of Fame, Hollywood Sign, Griffith Observatory, LA Zoo, Santa Monica Pier, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Battleship Iowa Museum, La Brea Tar Pits - and of course Universal Studios and Disneyland!

I'll be staying at least four days afterwards in Tokyo as well (also at my own expense), though I haven't put together my sightseeing list yet. (I've been to both LA and Tokyo - the latter after the 2001 Worlds in Osaka - but have never really done any sightseeing at either.)

Of course, the real reason I'm going to LA and Tokyo is to add to my souvenir magnet collection! Many people shell out lots of money on souvenirs when they sightsee; not me. I always buy a souvenir magnet (usually $3-5), and I'm done! I have them divided into two parts, with 55 US magnets on my refrigerator, and 93 International magnets (grouped by country) on a magnetic board on my wall. Soon this will be mine!!!

UPDATE - 2020 Olympic Selection Procedure Update Announced by USA Table Tennis
Here's the USATT news item, which went up on Tuesday. Basically, the new rules are simple - the highest world-ranked man and woman from the ITTF February rankings make the Olympic Team, while the top two men and women at the Olympic Trials get the other spots (3 men, 3 women). I'm told the February rankings will go up on Feb. 4, which is after the German Open (which ends Feb. 2), but I don't know if they will include those results. Lily Zhang and Wu Yue are both entered in it. Here's the link to the ITTF rankings.

BREAKING NEWS - Lily Zhang and Wu Yue both lost in the third round of the preliminaries at the German Open, so presumably their respective world rankings won't change, meaning Lily (along with Kanak Jha on the men's side) will get the automatic spot on the Olympic Team, based on world ranking. The rest will play in the US Olympic Trials, Feb. 27-March 1, for the final two men's and women's spots. (I'll be there!)

Weekend Coaching
We had Week #2 for both the Thursday (14 players) and Sunday (9 players) Beginning Junior Classes. (Spencer and Ronald Chen, and Todd Klinger, assist me on Thursdays; Lidney Castro on Sundays.) The focus was forehand review (which was a focus on Week 1) and the backhand. And then each class finished with the usual games.

For the Thursday class, we only had ten minutes, so we played the "Worm Juice" game - I put a bottle of Gatorade on the table and explained that I had gathered up all these fat worms from my lawn that morning, taken them inside, and squeezed their guts out, and then strained the liquid into an empty Gatorade bottle - "worm juice." They lined up, two shots each as I fed multiball, and if they hit it, I had to drink it. (As I constantly reminded them, "Friends don't make friends drink worm juice." Whenever someone hit it, they were no longer my friend.)

For the Sunday class, we had more time. First, I stacked ten cups into a pyramid (four cups for the base, etc.), and they each had ten shots to see how many they could knock down. Then we broke into two groups. One group played up-down tables (winner moves up a table, loser moves down), while the rest (the younger ones) took turns stacking the cups in to giant walls or pyramids (I keep a LOT of plastic cups for this), and then I fed multiball as they knocked it down. This latter is the perennial favorite for the kids under 12 or so.

In the more advanced Talent Development Program, we ran a practice tournament, so I didn't do as much coaching. But I did have a little fun - before their match, I tried coaching two girls (both about nine) to glare at each other, and tried to convince them that they were enemies. Of course, all I got was a gigglefest. Table tennis is so much fun when it's, um, fun.

I wonder if the kids realize how much different the coaches look at their play than they do? In the groups I watched, three players stood out - not because they won, but because they played with high-level technique and shots. I think my mouth dropped to the floor a few times while watching a pair of four-footers play each other, racing about and looping and counterlooping like Ma Long at half power!

Technical Problems
(Mostly non-table tennis, so skip if not interested in my Trials and Tribulations)
This last week has been a MAJOR headache. After many months of seeming bliss, everything mechanical or electrical fell apart. Here's a summary.

  • The hinge on my laptop computer broke on Thursday - the part that connects the screen to the base. I do most of my writing on the laptop, either in my lounge chair or at local restaurants. Not having it puts a major cramp on my routine. It's supposed to be repaired by Tuesday.
  • I received an email from my server (Godaddy) that due to suspicious activity, I should change my email password. I did so. But then a strange thing happened - my desktop computer wouldn't send email (I use Outlook), could only receive it. This went on for a couple of days. I finally switched back to my old password - and the result was my computer no longer would send or receive emails! And neither would my smart phone! It was weird and frustrating because I had the password correct on both devices, and yet it wouldn't work. I spent hours trying to fix the problem. I finally called technical support, and after some time with them, they were also unable to fix the problem. I finally called John Olsen, a 2000+ player and student of mine from Virginia and a true computer expert. He came over - and still couldn't get it to work, though he figured out that the problem was on Godaddy's end. He called the same technical support I'd called, and again they went over the problem, testing everything, and nothing seemed to work. After about 90 minutes, however, they basically deleted and recreated my email account, and finally got it to work. We're still not quite sure what happened - but if John hadn't come over and basically twisted Godaddy's arm over this, I don't know how it could have been fixed.

    John Olsen, by the way, has won a lot of medals - he won three golds at the 2019 Virginia Senior Games (60-64 Men's Singles and Mixed Doubles with Ergita MacLaughlin, Over 50 Men's Doubles with Kevin Walton, a total of 20 over the years), and at the 2019 National Senior Games he got silver in 60-64 Mixed Doubles (with Ergita MacLaughlin) and bronze in Over 50 Men's Doubles (with Kevin Walton). He also won Over 60 hardbat at the 2018 US Open, the last time they held the event.

  • I had a recent minor car accident, so my car's in the shop. (It was raining, the road was slippery, and as I went around a curve, my car spun off the road and into a light pole.) Insurance covers most of it, but I'll be paying at least $1000. I'm using a rental, the first time I've driven anything but my own car in decades. Car is supposed to be ready on Tuesday.

Table Tennis Community Fundraiser to Support Sally Boggan
The GoFundMe Fundraiser has raised $5784 so far, with 53 donors. (Sally is the wife of USATT legend Tim Boggan.) Tim hopes that, with enough donations, "it might be possible, with round-the-clock care, to get Sally home--give her new life." The fundraiser has definitely raised Tim's spirits!

German Open
Here's the home page for the event to be held Jan 28-Feb. 2, in Magdeburg, GER, with lots of news articles already. (Jan. 28-29 are preliminaries.)

USATT Presents 2019 Annual Coach of the Year Awards
Here's the USATT article. Here are the winners!

  • National Coach of the Year: Gao Jun and Stefan Feth (jointly awarded)
  • Developmental Coach of the Year: Wang Qingliang
  • Volunteer Coach of the Year: Dr. John Chen
  • Paralympic Coach of the Year: Mitch Seidenfeld
  • Doc Counsilman Coach of the Year: Not Awarded

Sean O'Neill Appointed Permanently to USATT High Performance Director Position
Here's the USATT article.

Thank You, Team
Here's the article by USATT High Performance Director Sean O'Neill.

Looeelooee Table Tennis Lessons Q and A - Why Good Rubbers Suck
Here's the video (15:35) by Louis Levene. There's a note underneath the video, from Louis, which I think clarifies this: "It's the combination of having both a very hard and very springy rubber that you should try to avoid until you are an advanced player; it makes any touch shot (blocking, pushing, spinning, touching, serving) much more difficult."

I agree that these hard sponges are not good except for advanced players, who drive hard into most rallying shots and still control these and other shots. On the other hand, if you are getting regular coaching (so as to avoid bad habits), and train regularly (as opposed to just playing games), I think it's best to go to advanced sponges at a relatively early level (1200-1500), but go with the softer or regular versions, not the hard ones - and don't get a super-fast racket. This makes it easier for a player to develop those advanced shots. A sponge like Tenergy FX (the softer version of Tenergy) is great for players at this level. (Alas, I only really know Butterfly equipment - I'm sponsored by them - but other brands have their equivalent.)

New from Samson Dubina

How to Read the Amount of Spin – with Mark Mitchell
Here's the video (7:03) from Tom Lodziak.

Scheduling Peak Performances
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Liam Pitchford in Training Mode Ripping Backhands... Unreal
Here's the video (16 sec) of the English #1 and world #22 (#12 in August). Why can't you do this?

2020 USATT Hopes Program - Road to LA
Here's the USATT article. "The USATT Hopes Program- Road to LA is a series of activities at regional, national and international level featuring education, training camps, competition and, talent identification, designed to spark motivation and interest for aspiring young table tennis athletes born on or after January 1, 2008 who have a love for table tennis and who wish to become high-level table tennis players."

2020 Para Program Initiatives
Here's the USATT article.

U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee Athlete's Advisory Council Sign Historic Agreement To Aide Athletes
Here's the USOPC article. The agreement was signed by the USOPC Athletes' Advisory Council Chair Han Xiao, who is quoted several times in the article. Han was a long-time member of the US National Team, 4-time Men's Doubles Champion, and 2011 Men's Singles Finalist at the US Nationals. (I was one of his coaches during his junior years!)

$100,000 World Championships of Ping-Pong
Here's the home page for the annual event held this past weekend in London - with sandpaper rackets. Here's the article Baggaley is Record-Breaking Betvictor World Champion. "Andrew Baggaley has won the BetVictor World Championship of Ping Pong for a record-breaking fourth time after beating Alexander Flemming 3-2 in an incredible final which will live long in the memory of the 1,500 capacity crowd in attendance at Alexandra Palace, London."

ITTF Articles

WAB Club Feature: Broward Table Tennis Club
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Cape Fear TTC: Slow and Steady Development Is the Way to Go!
Here's the article by Michael Reff, featuring the Cape Fear TTC in Fayetteville, NC.

Fan Zhendong Interview
Here's the ITTF video (5:50) of the world #1 from China, in Chinese with English subtitles.

Interview with Wong Chun Ting on 2020 World Team Qualification
Here's the video interview (60 sec) of the Hong Kong world #19 (formerly #6).

New Videos from MaLong FanMade Channel (MLFM)

Pigeons Playing Ping Pong
Pigeons Playing Ping Pong is the name of an actual band from Baltimore, Maryland! Here's video of one of their concerts - sorry, no actual table tennis, though the image at the start is of a pigeon with a ping-pong paddle smacking an egg, and 38 seconds in someone in the audience on the right seems to be waving a purple mini-ping-pong paddle!

Salah vs Lovren: Lunar New Year Table Tennis Challenge
Here's the video (11:06)! Mohamed Salah and Dejan Lovren both play on the Liverpool Football team (that's soccer for Americans); Salah is a member of the Egypt National Team, Lovren a member of the Croatian National Team.

The Funniest Moments of Table Tennis 2019
Here's the video (24 min)! "A selection of the funniest moments of Spanish table tennis during the year 2019."

Highlights and Funniest Table Tennis Moments
Here's the video (10:10)!

The Golden Challenge
Here's the video (10:10) from Pongfinity!

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