Larry Hodges' daily blog will go up Mon-Fri by noon USA Eastern time (usually by 9 or 10 AM, a little later on Mondays when he does a Tip of the Week).
Larry is a member of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame, a USATT Certified National Coach, a professional coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (USA), and an author of six books and over 1300 articles on table tennis. Here is his bio.
Tip of the Week
Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis Books
As long-time readers here know, about once a year USATT Historian/Hall of Famer/Legend Tim Boggan moves in with me for 10-12 days, where I do the page layouts and photo work for his U.S. Table Tennis history books. (Most of the photos come from Mal Anderson, who fixes them up before sending them to me.)
We did Volume 14 back in February, and I wasn't expecting him back until next year. But dang it, Tim, he went and got Volume 15 done in record time. And so he's moving in with me tomorrow. As usual, he'll live in my office/lounge, sleeping on my sofa. Also as usual, he'll be going to bed every night about 8PM and getting up around 3AM, and then impatiently waiting for me while he does more editing and planning on the day's pages. I'll be getting up extra early during his stay since I have to get this blog done first, though I'll be doing most of it the night before during his stay. We'll probably start around 7AM and work until 2:30 PM, which is when I have to leave Mon-Fri to pick up kids and coach/tutor in the MDTTC afterschool program. Weekends are tricky due to my coaching hours, but I'm mostly free now on Saturdays, but have a very busy Sunday schedule. If all goes well, we'll finish by Friday, Oct. 10. (I plan to spend much of Oct. 10-11 at the Capclave Science Fiction Convention that's held locally. I'm a panelist - here's the bio they have for me. )
The complicating factor is that I'll be getting up extra early, working all day with Tim, then doing the afterschool program and (on most days) staying on afterwards for private and group coaching, then returning home to do the blog - and then it'll be time to go to bed and start over in the night. These are going to be some long days.
Meanwhile, here's your chance to support Tim by buying one or more of his books. How can you call yourself a table tennis player if you don't have some of these? You could, of course, buy all 14. Currently there's no discount listed, but if interested in this email me and I'm sure Tim will give you a discount. Or pick and choose the years you are most interested in - see listing below. (The quotes are from the covers of each volume.) Volume 5: 1971-1972, the Ping-Pong Diplomacy Years, is especially popular. Or pick the years that cover when you started out or had events of interest to you.
You can buy the books or find more info on the Tim Boggan Table Tennis Page. (I created and maintain this for Tim. The link to the 1996 interview is no longer valid - I'm working to have that fixed.) At that page you can also see the covers, find reviews of the books, and see the number of pages and photos in each. I also maintain the Amazon pages where you can buy the books online, linked from his page and below (or you can buy them directly from Tim) - so if you buy them on Amazon, I can actually see the sales as they happen! (No, I don't see names, just the fact that someone bought them.) I'm hoping to show a bunch of sales for Tim tomorrow - so Buy Now!!!
European Team Championships
The event finished yesterday. Portugal upsets Germany in Men's Final, ending Germany's run of six men's titles in a row. But Germany won the Women's for the second year in a row, defeating Austria in the final. Here's the ITTF page for the event, with articles, video, pictures, and of course complete results. Here's the Men's Team article from TableTennista with video of the Men's final matches. Here's Women's Team article from TableTennista. Here's a video (2:54) showing the Top Ten Rallies of the Championships.
Article on Me I Didn't Know About
Here's a nice article about me from four years ago - but I don't think I even knew about it! I discovered it while browsing a few days ago. Wow, that Larry guy sure knows his stuff! It focuses more on my writing than on my coaching. A few updates - I'm now up to over 1500 published articles in over 140 different publications, and I recently sold my 71st science fiction or fantasy story. I also got another USATT/USOC Coach of the Year Award, the 2013 Doc Counsilman Science Coaching Award.
Here's the new coaching video (6:43) from Pingskills.
Backspin Serve - Like a Boss
Here's a video (9:35) that uses a number of creative ways to learn and practice the backspin serve.
Footwork Training in China
Here's a video (3:37) showing some kids doing footwork drills in China. Not much different than what's done at training centers in the U.S.
Nathan Hsu in China
Here's his latest video blog (2:33). It's short and no table tennis in this one, but you meet his grandparents and see a lot of Hong Kong. Links to previous ones are on right.
Muppet Show - Swedish Chef and Ping Pong Ball Eggs
Here's the video (2:57). The ping-pong balls first show up 49 sec in, though you don't really know this until the chef bounces it 55 sec in.
"Stop War" - Play More Table Tennis
Here's the picture - Go Pedro!
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The Ping Pong Diet, Table Tennis, and Academics
Dr. Chris Ko just came out with a new book, The Ping Pong Diet: The Twenty-One Point Plan. A few of you may remember Chris as a top MDTTC junior from the early 1990s, usually known back then as Christopher Ko. Here's his home page/blog, where he focuses on diet and nutrition. (The diet part might be of interest to me, though I think I've figured that part out, going from 196 this past summer to 178 this morning.) I just ordered the book, and will likely write about it after I read it. I'm not sure yet how much it applies to table tennis. Here's the book description:
"The Ping Pong Diet teaches you how to use the power of plants and protein to control your hunger and manage your weight. No counting. No calculations. Just eating, and a lot of it! But unlike other diet books, this book teaches you how to both lose the weight and keep it off. These strategies make up the twenty-one point plan for weight management that teaches you to eat well, be well, and finally feel well again. Engaging and inspirational, the Ping Pong Diet combines practical nutritional insight with motivational psychology to give you a new appreciation for food and for yourself. So pick up the Ping Pong Diet and get in the game!"
Here's a list of Chris's titles, where at the Junior Olympic, Junior Nationals, and U.S. Open he won three silvers and seven bronze in various junior events.
Chris isn't the only former top Maryland junior with a medical degree, i.e. an MD MD. Vivian Lee, Jessica Shen, and Michael Terao all have MDs, and I'm sure there are many others I don't know of or have forgotten about. But it's not just Maryland juniors who are academically oriented - the same is true of kids from training centers all over the U.S. - and I hesitate to list any because I'll leave out some obvious ones. (Readers, please list in the comments former top juniors who now have MDs or equivalent high-level degrees.) Eric Owens, the 2001 USA Men's Singles Champion, either has his MD now or is on the verge. Dennis Hwang, a member of the Resident Training Program for Table Tennis at the Olympic Training Center at Colorado Springs in the late 1980s, trained three hours a day, graduated as the valedictorian, and is now an MD. There are many more. Even Crystal Wang, the 12-year-old 2400 phenom from my club, who recently became the youngest player ever to make the USA Women's Team and win Under 22 Women's Singles, goes to a magnet school because of her advanced academics. But she's just one of the many juniors at my club (and other clubs) who have the discipline to excel at both table tennis and academics.
So why are top junior players in table tennis so successful in academics? There are two primary reasons. Let's face it, one of the reasons is because of the Asian community, which places so much emphasis on academics (bravo!), and since they also dominate the table tennis world, we get a lot of academically-minded table tennis stars. The other reason is that training at anything teaches self-discipline, which applies to other activities as well - so if someone has or develops the self-discipline to train hard and become a top table tennis player, he usually has the same self-discipline to become good at whatever he tries.
European Team Championships
ITTF Trick Shot Competition
They are down to the Final Five - chose your favorite!
Olympic Coach Magazine
Epic Point Between Ma Lin and Jorgen Persson
Here's the video (53 sec, including slow motion replay).
Amazing Come-Back Scoop Return
Here's the video (29 sec - watch the replay from the side)
The Six-Bounce Ping-Pong Plate Trick
Here's the repeating gif image. It's hypnotizing as it repeats over and over - careful or you'll be watching it all day.
Ping-Pong Balls Gone Wrong
Here's the video (90 sec) of this video prank.
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Timeliness and Table Tennis
One of my proudest accomplishments in table tennis is that, in the 22 years since we opened MDTTC, with countless private and group sessions, I've been late to a session exactly two times. Yes, just twice. Once I had a coaching event out in Virginia, and got stuck in a two-hour traffic jam on the way back, which normally would have been about 40 minutes, and so missed a session with Sammy. The other time I got my times mixed up and missed a session with John & Kevin. Ironically, both times when I was late, I missed the entire session. Not once have I ever actually shown up during a session late. (Technically, I showed up for the session with John and Kevin about 15 minutes before it ended, thinking it started in 15 minutes.)
I remember when we first opened MDTTC back in 1992 one of our coaches had a session scheduled with someone from Baltimore, an hour away. The coach forgot about the session, and the person from Baltimore wasn't happy. I ended up subbing for the coach. Later I met with him, and gave him a serious lecture about timeliness and scheduling. The coach was relying on memory to keep his busy schedule, which is a no-no. (He'd forgotten about a session the day before as well, and was walking out the door when the student came in, and so he returned and did the session.) If you have more than a couple of sessions per week, write them down. Full-time or near full-time coaches should keep a schedule book, and go over it each day to make sure they don't miss anything.
Twice in these 22 years a coach has been fired or replaced at MDTTC because of consistent lateness. Other coaches have lost many hours of valuable coaching time because students were unhappy with their lack of timeliness - and the coaches who do this often never know. Timeliness is one of those really important things for a table tennis coach.
The most common causes for lateness is probably the mentality that if you have a session scheduled at, say, 6PM, they need to show up at 6PM, or perhaps five minutes before. That doesn't work, unless you live next door. If I have a 6PM session, plan to get there at least ten minutes early, just in case. It also allows you to prepare for the session, rather than walking into the club and rushing out there. I'm probably on the extreme side on this - I always plan on being there 15 minutes early, which is why I'm essentially never late.
Speaking of timeliness, this blog went up later than usual. Why? Partly because I had to take my car in for minor repairs this morning (and walk a mile back), but mostly because I got drawn into an online "debate" with a close-minded fool. (I searched a Thesaurus for a better word than "fool" but couldn't find one. Even seemingly intelligent people can be fools at some things.) When will I learn to avoid such people?
Deal Chicken Coupons
Recently our club (MDTTC) has been hit with what appears to be a scam. People are coming in with coupons to play at our club, which they paid $50 for. The problem is we had nothing to do with it. Here's the coupon at DealChicken.com - see link at upper right, where it says "Buy Now!" and you pay $50 for $100 worth of supposed MDTTC play. They have lots of other "deals" for other businesses (check their home page). Since we didn't authorize this, it seems sort of scam, and club officers are contacting them about it. But I Googled DealChicken, and according to the Better Business Bureau, while there have been 106 complaints against them, it said:
"BBB has determined that DealChicken.com meets BBB accreditation standards, which include a commitment to make a good faith effort to resolve any consumer complaints. BBB Accredited Businesses pay a fee for accreditation review/monitoring and for support of BBB services to the public. BBB accreditation does not mean that the business' products or services have been evaluated or endorsed by BBB, or that BBB has made a determination as to the business' product quality or competency in performing services."
But since we didn't authorize there MDTTC coupon, that means someone put this up without our knowledge or permission, and they are making money off it, and that makes it a scam, right?
Zhang Jike Backhand Basics
Here's a short video (7 sec) showing the world men's singles champion's backhand. It's pretty similar to Ma Long's backhand, which I blogged about on Sept. 18, though Zhang here is topspinning the ball more. One interesting note - see how he plays the backhand with the left leg slightly in front, which keeps him in position to quickly change to a forehand. Many players play this way. Here's an interesting discussion on world-class backhands at the Mytabletennis.com forum.
Nathan Hsu in China
Here's his latest video report: Table Tennis Highlights! - China Day 31 Hong Kong (4:52). He's on the right at the start, wearing the blue USA shirt. There's both playing action at the Nikon Hong Kong Junior & Cadet Open, and you get to see the sites of Hong Kong. Other USA players appearing in the video include Jack Wang, Tina Lin, Patrick Pei, Sam Rockwell, and MDTTC Coach Jeffrey Zeng Xun (who is traveling with Nathan). And speaking of backhands (see previous segment), check out some of Nathan's off-the-bounce backhand winners!
Hardbat Forehands and Navin
Here's a video (52 seconds) where I'm coaching Navin on his newly developed forehand. He's a hardbat player (also uses sandpaper), with Parkinson's and an artificial heart. (Here's the recent USATT News Item about him.) We've actually just finished the lesson, and he's practicing on the robot, so I came over, and you can hear me coaching him in the background. I also give some commentary in the comments.
2014 Butterfly Badger Open
Here's another article by Barbara Wei: 2014 Butterfly Badger Open: Gateway to Growing Midwest Table Tennis
European Team Championships
Table Tennis Movie Posters
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USATT Coaching Academy
As noted in my blog yesterday, I'm thinking about running for the USATT Board of Directors in the upcoming USATT election. I gave five things I'd focus on, including the following coaching item:
Recruit and train coaches and directors to set up and run full-time centers and junior programs.
The goal is to have a huge number of such training centers with junior programs, leading to both large numbers of junior players and the development of elite juniors, which leads to elite players. When I made a presentation on this to the USATT Board in December, 2006, two board members openly scoffed at the idea, arguing that there wasn't enough interest in the U.S. to support full-time training centers. The rest sat about silently, waiting for the next item on the agenda. In response I resigned my position as USATT Editor and Programs Director. At the time there were about eight full-time centers in the U.S.; now there are about 75. Once a successful model was created, others copied it. USATT could greatly accelerate this process by recruiting and training coaches and directors as other successful sports do. Since USATT already runs clinics for coaches, and since the coaches would be paying for it (as they do in other sports), the system pays for itself.
For several years I've toyed with setting up a Hodges Academy, where I'd recruit and train coaches to become full-time professional coaches, to run junior training programs, and to set up full-time training centers. We already have a proven model for such full-time centers that works - that's why there are 75 such centers in the country, and that's without any serious involvement by USATT or anyone else really helping out. My club, MDTTC, basically pioneered the model 22 years ago, and we have seven full-time coaches. By word of mouth others have adopted similar methods, and so these centers keep popping up all over the country. We have 75 now; why not 500 in ten years? (Seven years ago, how many people dreamed we'd have as many as 75 now? Well . . . I did! Others just laughed.)
The problem is that while I'd get a number of prospective coaches if I opened such a Hodges Academy - and make a bunch of money - I wouldn't get nearly as many as USATT could get, as the official governing body for table tennis in this country. So I think establishing a USATT Coaching Academy would be the very first thing I'd work on if I did get on the USATT Board. (In which case I wouldn't make a bunch of money, since it's a volunteer position. And the other four items on my priorities list would have to wait until my second day in office.) How would I go about this?
First, we'd need to create the curriculum. USATT already teaches ITTF Coaching Courses, but the problem with that is that it teaches how to coach, but not how to be a professional coach. We need a curriculum that also teaches how to find a place to coach, solicit and keep students, set up and run junior training programs, set up and teach classes, how to maximize income, and all the other issues faced by professional coaches. Most of this is already covered in the Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook, which I wrote and would make available at cost. One aspect that's not covered that much in the handbook is setting up full-time centers. A manual for that is a must, and would be part of the curriculum.
Second, we'd need to bring in someone to teach the course. Ideally we'd bring in someone who is already teaching ITTF coaching courses in this country, who can simply add the additional curriculum. (Richard McAfee, are you listening?) This person would also likely be in charge of creating the curriculum for item #1, with my assistance if needed.
Third, we'd need to find a site or sites to teach the course. They should take place at full-time clubs with successful junior programs and top coaches so the prospective coaches can learn how a successful program works. Ideally we'd use various clubs around the country. We have a number of such clubs now!
Fourth, we'd need to solicit people who wish to become full-time professional coaches, as well as ones who wish to run junior programs. It's not enough to simply put out a notice and hope some people show up. We need to sell the program, very publicly showing and advertising how coaches can make very good money - typically $40 to $50/hour, and more for group sessions, plus various commissions. We need to create a corps of professional coaches, who not only know how to coach, but are actively coaching and running junior programs, with the emphasis on those who wish to do so full-time. The students would pay a fee, just as they do for the ITTF courses, and this would pay for the person running course and other expenses.
Fifth, we run the program, and the USATT Coaching Academy is born!!! I'll likely be there assisting at the first one - as an unpaid volunteer if I'm on the USATT Board.
Full-time Table Tennis Centers - Cart Before Horse?
In the forum here I was told I "...continue to put the cart before the horse." Read the posting and my response (which I've updated a few times) and judge for yourself. I really don't get this. To me, this is sort of like having 75 people learn how to loop, while three people who do not receive coaching are unable to do so. Does that mean we can't learn to loop? Oh, and I've coined a new slogan: "If you build it and promote it, they will come."
Here's the new coaching article by Samson Dubina, Ohio #1 and former USA Men's Singles Finalist.
Reading Serves and Medium Long Returns
Here's the coaching video (3:13) by Pierre-Luc Hinse, North American table tennis champion and Canadian Olympian.
I've always gone by the general rule that if there's a sharp pain, stop. If it's a steady pain, go easy. However, this is just a generality. Here are some articles on the subject. (Readers, comment below if you have input on this issue, or if you have links to other such articles that you think might be helpful.)
Portugal Looking to Upset Germany at the TMS 2014 European Team Championships
Back of Hand Serve
Here's a posting in the Mytabletennis.net forum on serving a ball off the back of the hand. It's perfectly legal. Here's my response. "I have that serve, and have used it twice in tournaments, both times against weaker players. Both times my opponent caught the ball and tried to claim the point. Both times I rolled my eyes and agreed to a let. Both times I should have won the point. (There was no umpire.) I also tried it in practice matches against Crystal Wang and Derek Nie (2350 12- and 13-year-olds), and both unhesitatingly backhand banana flipped winners, then looked at me like I was crazy."
Tribute to Ma Long
Here's the new video (6:31) that features the long-time Chinese superstar.
Here's video (45 sec, including slow motion replay) of a great "get" by Pierre-Luc Hinse against Xavier Therien back in 2011.
Adam Bobrow Around-the-Net Backhand Smacks Ball
Here's the video (5 sec).
Here's the Pep Talk of All Pep Talks
Here's the video (2:28) from a high school football player.
Stupid Game Spotlight: Pig Pong
Here's an article about the deadly sport of table tennis, pigs, and the connection. "Today I would like to talk to you about two things. Two things that should have never been brought together, but for some ungodly reason... they were. These two things are Ping-Pong (the game) and Pigs (the farm animal, not cops). Combining a sport (well Ping-Pong is kind of a sport isn't it?) with an animal that is the very personification of "sloth" just doesn't make sense to me."
The New iPhone 6, Wally Green, and Ping Pong!
Here's the video (38 sec).
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Five-Part Plan for USATT
Below is a five-part Plan for USATT. I've blogged about these issues in the past, but now that USATT is under new leadership, here's a good time to consolidate them together again. I could write a small book about each of these issues, but I'll keep them short here.
A key issue that affects all of these: Separate progressive and fairness issues. Both are important, but fairness issues take up all the time and energy and so we never get to progressive issues like the five issues above. Leaders need to focus on progressive issues, and send fairness issues to the appropriate committee. I'm guessing that the new USATT CEO, Gordon Kaye, is going to get dragged into fairness issues, and if he's not careful he'll spend his time acting as a judge and negotiator rather than progressively developing the sport, which is a recipe for more status quo.
I previously blogged about Fairness Versus Progressive Issues. The short version:
Fairness issues are those that involve the ongoing governance of the sport. They include setting up procedures for selecting teams; most membership issues; the running of the U.S. Open and Nationals and other similar events (including site selection, dates, choosing personnel, etc.); disciplinary actions; the magazine and website (which can be used to promote progressive issues, but are not progressive issues themselves); and many more. These issues take up the great majority of the time for USATT leaders. Look over the agenda or minutes for any USATT board meeting, and it's dominated by such issues.
Progressive issues are those that grow the sport. There are many different opinions on how this should be done, such as junior development programs (both elite and grass roots), leagues, schools, TV, growing the U.S. Open and Nationals, professional circuits, etc. It also includes raising money for the sport, if the money is used in progressive ways.
Another important issue is use of volunteers. One of the most promising things USATT has done recently is create the USATT National Volunteer Coordinator position. I blogged about this and the use of volunteers on August 22, 2014. (It also discusses Fairness Versus Progressive Issues again, and the use of committees.)
I am toying with running for the at-large position in the upcoming USATT election, and perhaps trying to convince the leadership of the importance of taking action on these issues rather than the usual wait and see attitude that permeates our sport. However, I have no interest in running if it's going to be the same old thing. The current situation is that if you suggest a "new" idea (and I put that in quotes because they are only new to those who haven't been paying attention), you get one of three responses:
Successful organizations do not operate in this fashion. They make goals, create plans to reach those goals, and the organization's leadership gets behind those plans and goals. But that's not how USATT currently or historically works. Right now if someone were to go to USATT with the five ideas above, it would likely get one of the responses listed above. I've been down that cycle multiple times - especially #3 - and do not plan to fall into that trap again. These issues have to be organizational issues, where the CEO and Board of Directors get behind these plans and make it their goal for these plans to succeed.
And tomorrow I plan to go back to blogging about coaching issues! But directly or indirectly, the above dramatically affects all of us in the table tennis community.
Here's the coaching video (4:50) by Pierre-Luc Hinse, North American table tennis champion and Canadian Olympian.
Techniques of Long Pimples
Here's the coaching video (6:56) by Tao Li
Xu Xin in Table Tennis World
Michael Maze on the Operating Table Again
$10,000 Butterfly Badger Open
Here's are two more articles by Barbara Wei on the tournament this past weekend.
Newgy Akron Open
Here's the USATT article about the tournament this upcoming weekend.
Table Tennis is Art at its Best Level
Here's the highlights video (8:48).
Former Bloomingdale Mayor is Tops in Table Tennis
Ryu Seung Min and the Cup of Water
Here's some sort of game show video (2:26) where the Korean star attempts to bounce a ball across the table and into a cup of water.
Send us your own coaching news!
Tip of the Week
USATT Hires New CEO
Here's the USATT announcement. Gordon Kaye is a USATT member rated 1469, who's played in 32 processed USATT tournaments since 2009, plus the Badger Open in Wisconsin this past weekend. (Highest rating: 1510.) Our paths even crossed once - he and I were both at the 2010 Eastern Open in New Jersey, him as a player, me as a coach. Here's his tournament record. He's a standard inverted shakehands player, who likes to attack but doesn't always have confidence in his loop, and so often blocks and counter-attacks. Here's an interview with him at the Badger Open by Barbara Wei, which includes an action picture. Here's another picture of him posing with Barbara.
I'm told he successfully transformed two failing organizations before coming to USATT. One was a minor league hockey team. Here are some online articles I found on him:
What does he need to do to be successful as USATT CEO? I'll write at length about this later. But the most important things are the following:
One obvious problem is that Gordon will face what all USATT CEOs face - conflicting direction from the USATT Board of Directors. Some are forward thinkers; some are not. Should his primary focus be raising money? Developing the sport? I know that at least one board members believes the primary focus of the CEO should be as office manager!!!
Anyone who reads my blog knows I believe the focus for now should be to develop the sport. Rather than trying to sell faulty shoes, fix the shoes first, then sell them. USATT has even had Strategic Meetings about growing the sport (i.e. fixing the shoes), and I've attended several. Somehow the main focus of these meetings has been vague generalities with no follow-up, slogans, and lots of self-congratulatory back-slapping for such a productive meeting.
So how did Gordon do at the Badger Open? Here are the complete tournament results. He had a pretty good tournament, with wins against players rated 1741 (congrats!), 1490, 1221, 1138, and 962, and losses to players rated 2073, 2056, 1879, 1705 (went five!), 1689, 1652, 1603, and 1562. Since he went in rated 1469, my ratings calculations say he'll pick up 49 points, and so come out at 1518 - a new high for him. (See, we know what's important.)
Now that we've read about him, know his rating and playing style, and know how he did at the Badger Open, we have to judge him. And I prefer to judge a person by anagrams. (After all, "Hodges" is just an anagram for "He's God.") So what do we get from Gordon Kaye?
So he's either a nerdy dork or a God. Only time will tell. Let's support him, and maybe, just maybe, he'll be the one to break the long-time USATT lethargy.
Celluloid vs. Non-Celluloid - Who's Using What?
While for the time being most tournaments in the U.S. are still using celluloid, the two upcoming big ones are both using non-celluloid. The North American Teams just announced they will use the non-celluloid balls, presumably the JOOLA Super-P 40+ balls they were selling at the U.S. Open. And as noted in previous blogs, the USA Nationals will use Nittaku Premium 40+ balls. (They aren't on sale yet, but should be available in mid-October. Don't mistake this for the Nittaku Sha 40+ ball, which is on sale now but plays differently.) My guess is that most tournaments will switch to non-celluloid sometime in 2015.
$10,000 Butterfly Badger Open
Here are the results of the tournament, which was held this past weekend in Waukesha, Wisconsin, with 204 players. (Included among the players was Gordon Kaye, the newly hired USATT CEO.) Butterflyonline has video and a photo gallery. Here are three articles on the tournament by Barbara Wei. (She tells me she has three more coming.)
The Forgotten Skill - Blocking
Here's the coaching article by Samson Dubina.
How to Receive Serves from Opposite Handed Players
Here's the coaching video (2:32) by Pierre-Luc Hinse, North American table tennis champion and Canadian Olympian.
Ma Long Serving Technique Slow Motion
Here's the video (3:03).
Sandpaper Qualifiers for $100,000 World Championship of Ping Pong
Nothing is Impossible Video Reaches Two million Views
Nathan Hsu in China
Here are two more videos from Nathan in China. (All eight are linked from the initial video, China Day 4.)
Zhou Xin Table Tennis Academy Physical Training
Here's the video (64 sec) by Bruce Liu.
The USATT Hall of Famer called me a few days ago to discuss USATT issues. He might be getting active in USATT again. Here's his web page.
Ping-Pong 4 Purpose
Here's another article on the charity event that was held Sept. 4 at Dodger Stadium, by Kim Gilbert.
Adam Bobrow Exhibition at Bloomingdales
Here's the video (61 sec) - the point lasts about 40 seconds!
Katy Perry - This Is How We Do
Here's the music video (3:29), which includes three table tennis segments - seconds 19-24, second 33, and seconds 1:21-1:23. In the first segment she sings, "Playing ping-pong all night long."
Rickie Fowler, Tiger Woods, Ryder Cup, and Ping-Pong
Here's the CNN article. The eighth and final picture shows Tiger playing table tennis penhold style, with the caption, "But with Mickelson's erstwhile ping pong partner Tiger Woods missing the Ryder Cup with injury, could self-confessed table tennis fan Fowler partner up with "Lefty" in Scotland?"
Teasing a Dog, Ping-Pong Style
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USATT Board of Directors August 2014 Teleconference and Stuff They Should Do
Here are the minutes. Here's the same question I ask after every such meeting: Was anything done that might lead to the serious growth of our sport?
I sometimes look at USATT as being perpetually like the U.S. in 1932, in the depths of a depression and with leadership who believed in doing things the same old ways. We need an FDR or TR type to come along and shake things up by actually doing things. But no one wants to be The Man in the Arena. Back on Nov. 13, 2013 I blogged about ten relatively easy things USATT could do to grow the sport (and I've referred to them a number of times since), but there just doesn't seem to be interest in doing such things - though as the new minutes show, they are interested in things like new formatting for the minutes. That's nice, but perhaps we should focus more on doing things rather than on how we format them?
Below is that same list from a year ago of things USATT could do to develop the sport. It's not rocket science. Note that the first three are just different ways of developing leagues, since that's where there is great membership potential. I'm personally most interested in #4 and #5, though #7 (along with any of #1-3) could lead to serious growth potential. And #8, by getting USATT leaders to focus on developing the sport, could be most important of all. Let's make things happen. Or we could continue in our Hooverish ways.
- Advertise to hire someone to set up Professional Leagues. Offer him 33% of revenues brought in, and the USATT's support with its web page, emails, magazine, and any other way feasible. It would be an historic position, similar to the first commissioner of sports such as baseball, basketball, and football.
- Redirect the purpose of the current "League" committee so that its primary purpose would be to actively increase the number and quality of leagues in the U.S. First job would be to bring in people to put together a manual for setting up such leagues. The authors would then publish on Amazon and get profits from sales. It's not large money, but they might get a few hundred dollars and the prestige of being a published author.
- Bring together the directors of the largest and most successful leagues in the U.S., figuratively lock them in a room, and don't let them out until they've put together a model for such leagues that can be done regionally all over the U.S.
- Create a "Training Center" committee whose primary purpose would be increase the number and quality of full-time clubs in the U.S. First job would be to bring in people to put together a manual for setting up and running such centers. The authors would then publish on Amazon and get profits from sales. It's not large money, but they might get a few hundred dollars and the prestige of being a published author. I already did a version of this with my Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook, and have sold over one hundred copies and made over $100. This manual covers half the stuff a manual on setting up and running a full-time center would cover.
- Change the focus of USATT coaching seminars from just teaching technique to the recruitment and training of professional coaches and directors of junior programs. I've argued this one for years.
- Advertise for someone to bring in sponsorships for U.S. Open and Nationals, where the person gets 33% or more in commission.
- Recruit State and Regional Directors all over the U.S. to set up regional associations, which would include election of officers, and appointment of Coaching, League, Tournament, and Club Directors for each state or region. (Some regions or states already have such associations.) USATT would supply the basic bylaws for these associations, using bylaws that have been created for this very purpose multiple times in the past, or modeled on current successful ones.
- Direct that the USATT Board of Directors main focus will be the development of the sport, and that "fairness" issues will go to the appropriate committee, freeing up board time for actually developing the sport. (I blogged about this on March 19, 2013.)
- Require that all prospective USATT board members must give at least one major area where they will take initiative in developing the sport, and give their plan for doing so. Along with this they should allow people on the ballot if they get 150 signatures from USATT members, with a deadline set after the North American Teams, which is where they could get the signatures. (This is how it was done in the past.)
- Do a mass mailing to the 50,000 or so past USATT members on the USATT database, and invite them to rejoin. The letter should come from a top, well-known U.S. table tennis star. There's one catch - there has to be something new to invite these players back. See previous items on this list. Any such mailing, done properly, would pay for itself. There's a reason why I and others get inundated with mailings from organizations I once belonged to. I still get regular mail from the U.S. Tennis Association since I played in their leagues about ten years ago. (Eventually we can move to emailing past members, but we don't have the email address of most of these past members.) I blogged about this on Feb. 19, 2014 and May 13, 2014.
2014 USA Junior and Cadet Team Trials
Here's the info sheet. Minor nitpick: Can't anyone learn to proof and format these things so they don't look like they were thrown together by a third grader? I found 14 typos or formatting problems on the first page. Let's try to look professional! I've volunteered to proof USATT documents for them before they go public, completely in confidence, and they used to take me up on this, but not in recent years. The offer still stands. And I'm sorry if I'm embarrassing whoever put this together, but c'mon - we can do better. (Am I picking on USATT here, in the segment above, and in previous blogs? You bet I am - they need to get their act together and change the thinking and organizational funk they've been in for so many years.)
USA Nationals Entry Form
It's linked at the USA Nationals Home Page. his came out two hours after I posted this blog, but I'm adding it late. I'll link to it again on Monday.
Practice Your Serves
Have you practiced your serves this week? Why not??? Few things are more under-practiced than serves, and time for time you probably get more from serve practice than just about anything else. Here are a few articles that might help out.
Covering Long Distances
Here's the coaching video (3:27) by Pierre-Luc Hinse, North American table tennis champion and Canadian Olympian.
Emad Barsoum Leading Player at 2014 Butterfly Badger Open
Here's the article by Barbara Wei.
Chinese National Team in Training
Here's the new video (4:01) of them as they trained for the 2014 World Team Championships.
Xu Xin - Pure Brilliance!
Here's a great point (22 sec). Xu is on near side, playing Germany's Dimitrij Ovcharov.
Ping-Pong as It Should Be Played
Here I am with playing with a vintage clipboard. (I'm about 2100 with it. Really! Challenge me at the Nationals - I'll have the clipboard ready!)
Getting Balled Out?
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Ma Long's Backhand
Here's video (47 sec) of the regular backhand topspin drive of China's Ma Long, currently world #3 but #1 for much of 2010-2014. It's pretty basic; that's key in all shots, keeping it simple. What can we learn from him?
Yes, I finally broke the 180 pound barrier this morning. Next stop: 175. Final goal: 170. (Two months ago I weighed 196.)
Here's the video (4:37) by Canadian Olympia Pierre-Luc Hinse.
I've blogged about the backhand banana flip, and have mentioned the much rarer strawberry flip in passing in past blogs - but I've never had video until now. Here's video of the shot (57 sec), done by a penholder. (A shakehander would do it the same way). The first shot is a banana flip; the second shot (11 seconds in) is the strawberry flip. (He then does two more, and then it is shown in slow motion.) So what is a backhand strawberry flip? It is the opposite of a banana flip, where your racket goes from left to right instead of right to left as with a banana flip (for righties). Many players have learned to sidespin this way, but more as a change-of-pace sidespin. A few players, such as Stefan Feth (and the penholder in the video above), can do a serious drive this way, so that the ball literally jumps away from you if he backhand flips it to your forehand (assuming both are righties).
Nathan Hsu in China
Nathan's been training in China since early July. He's put together a series of videos on the trip, where he talks about his training as well as featuring off-table activities, i.e. life in China. The videos starts with Day 4. (I'm mentioned at 5:27 in the first video.)
Sally Green Prouty, Dec. 23, 1922 - Sept. 7, 2014
Minnesota Player and Coach Duo Hope to Challenge the Best at 2014 Butterfly Badger Open
Here's the article by Barbara Wei.
Ping Pong 4 Purpose
Ariel Hsing Teaches Makeup 101 to Chinese Players
Buried in Ping-Pong Balls
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Tip of the Week:
I've spent most of the last two days in bed with a cold, but I'm over it now. It's fortunate timing as my Mon-Tue schedule is light, while Wed-Sun I'm very busy. There are a lot of segments in this morning's blog as they have accumulated over the last five days. I have no more sicknesses scheduled for this year.
Why Players Plateau
Here's a great article on this topic. This happens to players all the time - they reach a comfort level, and then stick with what's comfortable and works at that level, and so aren't able to progress beyond that point. I'm always trying to convince players at all levels to avoid this type of roadblock to improvement.
Here are two segments from the article.
In the 1960s, psychologists identified three stages that we pass through in the acquisition of new skills. We start in the “cognitive phase,” during which we’re intellectualizing the task, discovering new strategies to perform better, and making lots of mistakes. We’re consciously focusing on what we’re doing. Then we enter the “associative stage,” when we’re making fewer errors, and gradually getting better. Finally, we arrive at the “autonomous stage,” when we turn on autopilot and move the skill to the back of our proverbial mental filing cabinet and stop paying it conscious attention.
And so we get to the so-called “OK Plateau” — the point at which our autopilot of expertise confines us to a sort of comfort zone, where we perform the task in question in efficient enough a way that we cease caring for improvement. We reach this OK Plateau in pursuing just about every goal, from learning to drive to mastering a foreign language to dieting, where after an initial stage of rapid improvement, we find ourselves in that place at once comforting in its good-enoughness and demotivating in its sudden dip in positive reinforcement via palpable betterment.
How many of you are in the "autonomous stage," where you are blindly sticking to your comfort zone with the things that work at that level, but stop you from progressing? Watch what stronger players do, and emulate that. This doesn't mean you should completely lose what helped you reach your current level; much of that will be useful even at higher levels. The problem is when you rely on lower-level techniques and wonder why you can't reach a higher level.
Navin Kumar: A Passion for Table Tennis
Here's the article. He has "a congenital heart condition that has required 5 major open heart surgeries throughout my lifetime, and I now have a mechanical heart made of the same carbon fiber material that you see in high end table tennis blades nowadays." He recently became one of my students. (He mentions me in the article.)
Three Years Eight Month Old Player
Here's the video (4:33). At the start he's standing on a chair. About thirty seconds in he's on a platform. We need to get something like this at my club. In tennis they start kids at three years old and sometimes even younger, using smaller courts and slower balls. Because of the height of the table players can rarely start in table tennis until they are five or six. There's no reason they can't start by age three if we have either platforms for them to stand on or lower tables. They actually make adjustable tables overseas, where you can lower the table, but they are expensive.
Volunteer Prize for Table Tennis Teacher
Here's the article on USATT Coaching Chair Federico Bassetti.
Here's a write-up of the tournament held this past weekend, with a link to a photo album.
Humble Beginnings to Established Event, 6th Annual Badger Open
Here's the article by Barbara Wei.
Ariel Hsing: There Are Not Many Powerful Players in America
Here's the article on Nobuhiko Hasegawa and Shigeo Itoh of Japan, the 1967 and 1969 Men's Singles World Champions. Includes links to numerous vintage videos.
China's Table Tennis Girls Team Spends Three Days in School, Four Days at Practice
Here's the article. I'm told by many Chinese players that in many Chinese sports schools they spend only one hour per day on school and 7-8 hours on sports.
Crazy Double Around-the-Net Shot
Here's the video (45 sec, including slow motion replay).
Triangle Table Tennis
Here's the video (2:24) of a news item on the Triangle Table Tennis Club in Morrisville, NC.
Princeton Pong - Battle of the Sexes 2014
Chuang Chih-Yuan - Off the Table
Here's the video (3:42) of the world #8 from Taiwan.
Out of This World Doubles Rally
Here's the video (39 sec, including slow motion replay).
Stiga 2014 Trick Shot Showdown
Here are the selections - 65 of them! There's a "Play All" button.
Interview with Piing of Power
Here's the interview, with a link to a hilarious video (1:12).
Carl Sagan's Understanding of the Afterlife
Here's the cartoon sequence. If you're impatient, skip down to the last few pictures!
Marty Reisman, His Forehand, and the Table Tennis Robot
Here's the video (14 sec) of the late table tennis great.
Exhibition by Saive and Merckx
Here's the video (1:35) as all-time great Jean-Michel Saive and Jasper Merckx (both from Belgium) lob and spin the table about.
Dude Perfect: Ping Pong Challenge
Here's the video (3:43) as the twins Coby and Cory go at it in this "ping pong battle for the ages."
Larry Bavly Copies the Famous Ma Lin Serve
Here's the original (1:18) as a shirtless Ma Lin serves backspin so the balls spin back into the net, his "ghost serve." Here's Larry Bavly mimicking this (2:30) in his XXL version. It brings back memories of the famous Saturday Night Live Chippendale skit (2:53) with Patrick Swayze and Chris Farley.
Non-Table Tennis - Letter from a Time Traveler to Orioles Fans
Here's another feature article I had at Orioles Hangout. This year everything that could possibly go wrong with the Orioles went wrong, as the article shows - and yet they clinched the American League East Division last night, with a 13.5 game lead with 11 games left to play. As noted in the past, I've coached three of the Orioles - shortstop J.J. Hardy, star reliever Darren O'Day, and Vice President and former start center fielder Brady Anderson. I've also hit with about half of them. (Here's the blog entry on my day at the Orioles clubhouse last summer.)
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I'm still stuck in bed with a cold, though I did struggle out yesterday to do an exhausting one-hour multiball session for some students. (I kept my distance! But I felt like I was going to collapse a few times.) One way or another I expect to be back in action tomorrow, blogging and coaching. The irony is that I'm in the final rewriting stage of my science fiction novel (which was critiqued at a writers workshop this summer), and I was tentatively planning to take two days off this week to work on it. (I worked on it some on Saturday, but nothing since then.) I might do that next week - we'll see. It's getting timely as USATT Historian Tim Boggan moves in with me on Monday, Sept. 29 so I can do the page layouts and photo work on his History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. 15. (Here's the home page for the series, which I maintain for him.) Back to bed - I'm working my way through The Dresden Files novels. (Sorry, no table tennis in them.)