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 TipsMore Table Tennis Tips, and Still More Table Tennis Tips, which cover, in logical progression, his Tips of the Week from 2011-2013, 2014-2016, and 2017-2020, 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!

October 19, 2020

Tip of the Week
Sometimes Hit Twice to the Same Spot.

Weekend Coaching and Shadow Practice
I worked mostly with the youngest players on Sunday. In the 90-minute session, we spent the first 45 minutes doing multiball. For most of it, I'd feed multiball to one player, with various footwork drills, while I'd have one or two others behind him, shadow-practicing as they match the player's movements. I'd rotate them every two minutes or so. It's a great way to work with beginning-intermediate players. Here's a video example (61 sec), but not of the players I was working with, who are a little more advanced.

Shadow practice is one of the most under-utilized training techniques. Most players try to develop both their technique and timing at the same time (i.e. stroke and hit the ball in a drill), when you can develop the stroke better if you don't always have to also time it to hit the ball. You need both, of course, but if you shadow-stroke the correct technique enough, it becomes second-nature, and makes it much easier to do so in drills and game situation. Here are three Tips of the Week on Shadow Practice:

Here are some videos on shadow practice:

On Saturday I had my usual session with Navin Kumar. We're working a lot on forehand smashing, as well as turning his backhand blocking (with long pips) into something that strikes terror in the hearts of lesser and stronger players. Here's video (61 sec) near the end, where he's working on smashing against my lobs. If you look in the comment section, you'll see a long comment by me where I went over what we did in the session.

USATT News
Lots of big issues this week!

USATT Board Teleconference
It was held on Tuesday, Oct. 13 at 8PM. The open portion only lasted 24 minutes, and then they went to executive session to discuss legal and/or personnel matters. There were 19 people on the call (though listed as 20, with one person listed twice). Included were the USATT Board (five people), staff members CEO Virginia Sung, COO Mark Thompson, Marketing and Communications Director Chad Knasinski, High Performance Director Sean O'Neill, High Performance Manager Doru Gheorge, Director of Para Programs Jasna Rather, NCTTA President Willy Leparulo, American Youth Table Tennis Organization CEO Thomas Hu (who is running for the USATT Board in the upcoming election), and others, including me. Here's a screen shot.

First up was the CEO report from Virginia Sung. Some of the things she covered:

  1. New USTT Membership Plan
  2. Regionalization (and note the USATT Town Hall Meeting with Club Administrators. on Tuesday, Oct. 20, where this will be discussed),
  3. ITTF matters (WTT). The 2023 World Championships to be held in Durban, South Africa - first time ever in Africa. (See news item below on this.)
  4. Recertification of NGBs, once every four years.
  5. Olympics movement.

Next up was the High Performance Director Report from Sean O'Neill. Some things covered:

  1. 2020 World Championships in Busan, Korea, were originally scheduled for March 22-29, 2020, but were rescheduled for Feb. 28 - Mar. 7, 2021.
  2. 2020 World Junior Championships have been cancelled. They were supposed to have been Nov. 29 - Dec. 6 in Portugal.
  3. He discussed the China bubble for the World Singles Cup and World Tour Finals.
  4. Olympics - Team selections, coaches, alternates, and camps
  5. USOPC Grants - Stupa Analytics and Polar Heart Rate Monitors
  6. National Team Selection (from the High Performance Committee) - Trials, Team Size, and Preparation. (The HPC meets twice a month, and will be coming out soon with info on these issues. They had their own teleconference immediately after the board meeting. Minutes and info on that will likely be up this next week.)
  7. T2 Competition (Thursday Night Live) - Team Butterfly d. Team Nittaku, 6-3, discussion of Season 2.

Next up was the Auditing Committee Report, by Kelly Watson. Gist of it - USATT lost money due to the pandemic, but that was somewhat unavoidable.

New from Samson Dubina

New from Tom Lodziak

Five Ways to Improve Your Serves
Here's the video (8:08) from Joey Cochran. Check out his past instructional videos at Table Tennis Junkie!

The Science of Spin in Table Tennis
Here's the video (35:24).

Deep, Breaking Serve - Around a Target
Here's the video (29 sec). You might even consider putting the target wider, outside the corner, to practice serves that really force the receiver to reach for the ball.

Forehand Training Movement
Here's the video (74 sec) - Forehand loop, touch barrier, repeat. Note the wide stances, despite being kids and shorter than most adults.

New from Steve Hopkins

My Once a Week Hardbat Habit
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

Desmond Douglas on Race and Results
Here's the article from Table Tennis England on the former world #7 and 11-time English Men's Singles Champion.

Best of Fan Zhendong at the 2020 Chinese National Championships
Here's the video (9:11). He defeated Ma Long in the final.

6 Great Rivalries in Table Tennis
Here's the video (4:17).

Amazing Table Tennis Block shots! Who Did It Best?
Here's the video (2 min).

Amazing 7-Year-Old Hungarian Girl
Here's the video (3:08) of Lizett Fazekas. According to Jules Apatini, "It is my great pleasure to personally know Peter Fazekas, who happens to be the Father, coach, and trainer of this little seven years young lady who, if I may predict, will be a world-class Table Tennis Champion if she keeps this up!"

Top Five Tallest Professional Table Tennis Players in the ITTF TOP 100 and Their Best Points
Here's the video (5 min).

Durban, South Africa, to Host Historic 2023 ITTF World Table Tennis Championships
Here's the ITTF article. It's the first World Championships in Africa.

New from the ITTF
Here's their home page and news page.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here!

Pistol Paddle
How can you call yourself an Equipment Junkie if you don't have a Pistol Paddle?

Hubie Halloween and Adam Sandler's Weapon
Here's an image of Adam Sandler from the new Netflix movie Hubie Halloween. Twice Adam Sandler's character is about to fight with a ping-pong paddle as his weapon - against a werewolf and against a car driven by a headless driver. Alas, the werewolf runs away, and the paddle wasn't much help against a car.

Grunt Pong
Here's the video (19 sec) - I'm not sure if they are grunting so loud for fun, to copy someone, or if it's the latest technique!

Ping Pong Battleship: Grand Final
Here's the video (5:43)!

Non-Table Tennis - UFO8
This Sunday was the Book Launch for Unidentified Funny Objects 8, the annual anthology of humorous science fiction & fantasy stories. I have a story in it, "Journey to Perfection," and so was on the online panel, which was held at Capclave, a science fiction convention. I gave a short synopsis of the story and read a 450-word excerpt. The story is a satire on self-driving cars and GPS, where a snob buys the latest model, and it takes whatever he says literally - leading to a number of crazy adventures, and his comeuppance and redemption. (One of the other authors is David Gerrold, who wrote the famous original Star Trek episode, "The Trouble with Tribbles.") There is one mention of table tennis, where I describe the main character as bouncing around inside the car "like a ping-pong ball" when the car is driving up a set of steps - from his living room to the upstairs!

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October 12, 2020

Tip of the Week
Don't Telegraph the Direction of Your Attack.

USA Table Tennis Announces New Membership Programs for 2021
Here's the USATT news item. Here are the first two paragraphs:

"USA Table Tennis, the National Governing Body for the sport of table tennis, today announced that the organization is implementing a new, simplified membership structure, which will take effect on January 1, 2021. Under the new program, members can select one of two available annual memberships – "Basic" and "Pro" – depending on each particular member's playing goals."

"The Pro Plan, which will cost $75 per year, will allow the member to play in all USATT Sanctioned Tournaments and Leagues, including the US Nationals and US Open. The Basic Plan, which will cost $25, permits the member to play in 0 – 4 Star Tournaments, which will include a new event – the US Nationals State Qualification Tournament – and USATT Leagues. All members will continue to receive the historical benefits of USATT membership including coverage under an accidental medical insurance policy, voting privileges, travel and sponsor discounts, access to the USATT newsletter, and full access to the complete USATT rating system."

This could be a good idea, but a lot of it will come down to execution and communication. A key thing here is that USATT will now be requiring the $25 membership to play in the USATT League. Until now, it has been free, some will not like this. How to turn USATT League players into USATT members has been an ongoing question for years. One of the keys here is that they don't have to pay the full $75 membership, only $25.

HOWEVER . . . and here's the part that's important. In just over eleven weeks, USATT clubs all over the country might be running USATT Leagues. (I say "might" because of the pandemic, which is a separate issue.) If League Directors don't know about the change, they will likely show up in January to run their leagues as always . . . and get caught when they find non-USATT members can't play, or at least can't get their ratings processed. What will happen if they have some non-members playing? Will that stop the entire league rating processing? Non-members will also show up, not realizing they have to be USATT members, and some will be unhappy at this. I think the $25/year is fair, but they key is to not have lots of leagues play with non-members, and then discover they weren't eligible.

So COMMUNCATION will be key. USATT needs to inundate clubs and league directors with info on the new policy so they can prepare by alerting their players. They will need a lot of lead time on this since often they may not even communicate with the players except when they show up at the club. Ideally, USATT could even produce simple flyers that clubs can put up, showing the benefits of the USATT League, with the key part that they get a LOT for that $25.

One irony is that, in this case, the pandemic might have helped USATT. Normally, such a change would take place while leagues are running every week all over the country, and so it would cause problems. But with the pandemic, most leagues are currently on hold, and so it's a natural time to make such a switch.

One problem, of course, is that many league directors might simply choose to look around and find other free table tennis league software. Ideally, USATT will cut that off by communicating to the clubs and league directors the value of the USATT League, as part of a nationwide league, along with the ease of league ratings, submitting, and processing. Lowering the membership for leagues to $25 is a big help.

One thing that might help is if clubs get a percentage of the new $25 memberships. The problem there, of course, is that $25 isn't a lot, and when you split it up, it becomes even less. Of course, if USATT were to give clubs 40% of that ($10), clubs might simply charge $15/year to play in the league.

One nice thing - USATT has eliminated the hated Ratings Access Subscription plan, so USATT members can again look up the ratings of anybody, even former members whose memberships have expired.

A little history. I initiated USATT League about 20 years ago, and co-founded it with Robert Mayer. At the time we started it, "winner stay on" was the norm all over the country, with very few leagues. So the question was: How could we jumpstart a league system? And so the USATT League system was born - and now it is used every week in club leagues all over the country. A key part was that the ratings were separate from the USATT Tournament ratings, since players are very protective of that. However, at some point (and it might already be happening - not sure), some leagues can run using regular USATT ratings, if they choose. One goal of the USATT League was to allow players to get initial ratings from the leagues, and use that as their starting rating when they play their first USATT tournament. That way they don't have to go through what most have to do, play in rating events their first tournament where they can't advance, since they are unrated.

There is also info in the news item on the new Regionalization of the Nationals, where players qualify in regional events. I'll look into that sometime later. The next USA Nationals is now scheduled for July 4-9, 2021, at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas.

Weekend Coaching
In the Sunday Class, I worked mostly with the younger kids, and continued to work on fundamentals. At the end of the session, I put a water bottle on the table, and put a trillion dollar bill under it. I'd feed each of them three balls (wide backhand, middle, wide forehand), and if they knocked the bottle over, they got a trillion dollars! I lost four trillion dollars, my entire life savings...

On Saturday I spent much of the session with Navin Kumar working on forehand loops followed by smashes. But we also spent a lot of time on his blocking, making sure he's solid on both sides, and able to cover the whole table in random drills. Here are two videos from the session (41 and 74 sec). Navin also posted two videos of himself, side by side. The first was of him before I started coaching him, and the second a recent one. Forehand has improved!!! He also did this video (2:20) for a Parkinson's group.

USATT Board Teleconference
They have one tomorrow (Tuesday, Oct. 13) at 8PM Eastern Time, using Uberconference. Here's the USATT Agendas and Notices page, which includes a link to the info for this teleconference if you would like to listen in and perhaps participate. (You can ask questions in the chat box, and then they may respond or allow you to speak.) The current agenda is sparse, just CEO Report, High Performance Report, and Committee Reports and Updates, but more may be added later. (Here's the USATT Minutes page, where you can see the minutes of past meetings.)

USATT Coaches Meeting
USATT High Performance Director Sean O'Neill has been organizing bi-monthly Zoom meetings for all USATT Coaches. They are normally the second and fourth Friday every month, usually at noon eastern time (though they sometimes have to vary that due to coaches' schedules), and last about 30 minutes. Sean announces each meeting, including agenda and the link to attend, on the USATT Coaches Facebook Page. I attended the one last Friday, which went a little longer than previous ones, about 50 minutes. Attending were Sean O'Neill, Doru Gheorghe, Samson Dubina, Mike Lauro, Sameh Awadalla, Wang Qingliang, and Larry Hodges (me). Here is a video of the meeting (50 min), along with links about the items covered in the meeting. Some of the items discussed included:

  • USATT Hopes Program
  • US Nationals and regionalization
  • International and National Teams
  • Thursday Night Challenge
  • Coaches reported on their clubs

Table Tennis Books Out This Year
There are at least eight new books on table tennis out this year! Here's a listing. Time to do your Christmas shopping! (Here's my table tennis book collection of 269 books.)

  • My Stories of Mental Toughness On and Off the Table, by Dora Kurimay. "I believe that the principles of sports psychology can be applied to all aspects of your life. Whether with public speaking, being a great parent, or developing your skills as an athlete. This collection of 11 stories from my life offers insight on gaining a psychological edge and attaining mental toughness."
  • Winning Table Tennis, by Dan Seemiller and Mark Holowchack, reprinted in 2020. "Whether you're a competitive tournament player or a serious recreational player, Winning Table Tennis: Skills, Drills, and Strategies will help you improve your game. Dan Seemiller, 5-time U.S. singles and 12-time doubles champion, shows you all the shots and strategies for top level play. This book features 19 drills for better shot-making, plus Seemiller's own grip and shot innovations that will give you an edge over the competition. Featuring the most effective table tennis techniques and strategies Winning Table Tennis shows you how to: choose the right equipment; serve and return serves; use proper footwork and get into position; practice more efficiently; prepare for competitions; make effective strategy decisions in singles and; doubles play, and; condition your body for optimal performance."
  • Spin: Tips and Tactics to Win at Table Tennis, by Tom Lodziak, 2020, "Table tennis is a weirdly addictive sport. All over the world, an army of amateur table tennis players compete in leagues, tournaments, pub battles, work challenges and 'friendly' family games. A 78-year-old can beat a 28-year-old. A 10-year-old can make a grown man cry. To win, you need ninja-like reflexes, the control and coordination of a tightrope-artist, and the tactical dexterity of a chess grandmaster. In this book, coach Tom Lodziak will help you improve your table tennis skills, win more points and win more matches. Tom shares tips on training, service, returning serves, winning points, tactics, playing matches and continual improvement. These are tips which work at amateur level. Tips which are achievable. Tips which will make a difference, even if you only play one hour per week. Are you ready to transform your table tennis game?"
  • It Takes Balls to Play Table Tennis, by Gerard Desmond Flanagan, 2020. "A sports journey with a reflective look back at how the Troubles in Northern Ireland have shaped everything. Des has somehow talked himself into writing a book about table tennis of all things. After deciding to try and play international table tennis after a small gap of forty odd years, it is not long before his mind is off all over the place. The effects of living through 'The Troubles' soon appear and events shape his journey. The various journeys to and from the tournaments via his past become a form of a 'mens shed' on wheels."
  • Table Tennis From Then Till Now, by Rowden Fullen, 2020. "This book is about our great game of table tennis. But in fact it's not a book as such, rather a series of articles, lectures and seminars, delivered over many decades which chart the journey through time and many differing eras. Over almost eighty years of involvement in the game I have had the great fortune to meet many of the greatest coaches and their stars and have tried to absorb their thoughts and ideas. Equally in these articles I have tried to chart the way the game has changed and evolved over the decades."
  • Ping! A Personal Perspective on Table Tennis, by Graham Frankel, 2020. "Table tennis, the sport that almost everybody has played at one time or another, has a unique position among all other popular world sports. The evolution of table tennis at a competition level has been dominated by changes in equipment. This fascinating story is punctuated by moments of drama where unknown players have burst onto the international scene upsetting established champions and setting the sport into a new direction. These pivotal changes sparked bitter conflicts – sometimes drawn out over decades - between the authorities, players, and those with commercial interests in creating new products. Set against the historical background, Ping! is also a very personal story, charting the experiences of how a young boy whose humiliating failures in other sports led to a lifetime commitment to table tennis."
  • Why Table Tennis?: 10 Aspects of the Sport That Will Change Your Life, by Samson Dubina, Jacob Boyd, and Sarah Jalli (editor - Larry Hodges), 2020. "The Olympic sport of table tennis is well-respected worldwide for the dexterity of the athletes, the speed of the rallies, and the excitement of watching players of all ages and nationalities compete for world titles. Here in the US, very little is known about table tennis … Until Now! Why Table Tennis takes you on a one-hour journey where you will explore the vastness of the sport, understand how it is healthy for the mind and body, how it has impacted world history, and why it can impact your life too!!! Buckle up for this one-hour journey… The Olympic Sport of Table Tennis!"
  • Still More Table Tennis Tips, by Larry Hodges, 2020. "Here are 150 Tips to help your table tennis game, by Larry Hodges - a member of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame and a National Coach. They compile in logical progression three years' worth of Tips of the Week (2017-2020) from TableTennisCoaching.com. They cover all aspects of the game: Serve, Receive, the Strokes, Grip and Stance, Footwork, Tactics, How to Improve, Sports Psychology, Equipment, and Tournaments. (This is a sequel to "Table Tennis Tips," which covered the 150 Tips from 2011-2013, and "More Table Tennis Tips," which covered the 150 Tips from 2014-2016.)"

31,000 Reads!
The last week's blog was the first to break 30,000 reads in a week, and went over 31,000 this morning. It's been getting about 28,000 the last few weeks.

Benefits of Becoming a USATT Certified Coach
Here's the USATT article by Joshua Dyke. "The USATT Online Coaching Certification program is an excellent opportunity for those who wish to teach the game they know and love. Whether you want to coach table tennis players that compete on the national stage or be joined by friends and family to have weekend matches in your recreation room; these are moments where coaching certification would be a welcome addition to enhance the quality of play and the spirit of the game."

2020 US Hopes National Finals
Here's the info page. They will be held in Akron, OH, at the Samson Dubina TTC, Dec. 2-5. This is for kids born in 2008 or after. My club (MDTTC) will likely be sending five kids - Stanley Hsu (just turned 12, 2286, #1 in Hopes), Mu Du (12, 2020, #4 in Hopes), Winston Wu (10, 1955, #7 in Hopes), Ryan Lin (10, 1901, #11 in Hopes), and Aaron Zhang (11, 1516, #22 in Hopes). I hope to go as one of the coaches, but we have a lot of coaches at our club, so we'll see. 

USATT Hall of Famer George (Gus) Kennedy Passes Away
Here's the USATT article. Although he was on the USATT Board of Directors the first few years I worked for them, I never really knew him well, alas.

Interview with USATT High Performance Director Sean O'Neill
Here's the video (50:22) from Kevin Table Tennis.

"In the Loop" Table Tennis Research Roundup
Here's the info page. "Ready to CHOP down your competition and PUSH your game to the next level? Join my FREE monthly "research roundup" and get concise breakdowns of the latest research pertaining to table tennis players."

Do Your Serves Complement Your Playing Style?
Here's the article from Tom Lodziak.

New from Samson Dubina

Special Training China's Table Tennis
Here's the video (8:15).

Reverse Tomahawk Serve
Here's the video (63 sec, includes slo-mo) of Ding Ning.

Table Tennis Player Has Got Crazy Skills
Here's the training video (3:01).

Jimmy Butler vs. Daniel Tran
Four-time US Men's Champion Jim Butler has been posting videos of his practice matches with US MiniCadet star Daniel Tran and others. You should go to the Jimmy Butler Facebook page and have a look!

New from Steve Hopkins

Chinese Nationals
Here's the ITTF Article: Fan Zhendong wins singles gold; Chen Meng and Wang Manyu secure women's doubles title. See also Steve Hopkins' article above.

All of the Dragons in The Table Tennis Dungeon
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Adriana Diaz, Puerto Rico's "Athlete of the Decade"
Here's the ITTF article.

Vladimir Samsonov - The European Legend!
Here's the video (6:22).

INCREDIBLE Table Tennis Backhands! Who Did It Best?
Here's the ITTF video (1:50).

New from the ITTF
Here's their home page and news page.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here!

Tahl Leibovitz Racket at the Olympic & Paralympic Museum
Here's the picture. (Here's the non-Facebook version.) Want to know more about Tahl? Here's his 2017 book, Ping-Pong for Fighters. Here's another Facebook posting that shows both Tahl's racket and a racket signed by USATT's first three Olympians (from 1988), Sean O'Neill, Insook Bhushan, and Diana Gee. (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

US Table Tennis Championships (1940)
Here's the video (1:21), including a lot of Lou Pagliaro vs. Sol Schiff.

Ping-Pong Paddle Shirts from Amazon

I Played Against World No. 8 Cheng I-Ching
Here's the video (14:44) from Adam Bobrow!

Top 10 Table Tennis FAILS of 2020
Here's the video (4:04) from Table Tennis Daily!

A Little Ping Pong Madness
Here's the music video (4:13)!

Hand Sanitizer Backboard Basketball Pong
Here's the video (3 sec)!

Table Tennis Funny Collection
Here's the video (2:52)!

Table Tennis Trickshots Maharu Yoshimura Edition
Here's the video (6:14)!

Split Table Tennis Racket
Here's the video (5:10) from Pongfinity!

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October 5, 2020

Tip of the Week
Exaggerate Serving Follow-Through in "Wrong" Direction.

This is B.E.S.T. Week - Buy Every Seemiller Tome!
Here's the new Dan Seemiller page, where you can buy both of the books by USA's greatest modern player. (It's a relatively simple page I put together.) One teaches you how to play table tennis; the other is about his table tennis life.

Here's Dan's very short resume:

  • Dan Seemiller's USATT Hall of Fame Profile (by Tim Boggan)
  • 5-time U.S. Men's Singles Champion: 1976, 1977, 1980, 1982, 1983
  • 12-time U.S. Men's Doubles Champion: 1976-1983, 1990-1991, 1994, 2009
  • 7-time U.S. Mixed Doubles Champion: 1976-1978, 1981-1983, 1988
  • U.S. Men's National Team Coach, 1999-2009
  • U.S. Men's Olympic Coach, 2000 Sydney, 2004 Athens
  • 3-time USOC Coach of the Year for Table Tennis
  • South Bend Table Tennis Club Head Coach 1996-present
  • President of USA Table Tennis, 1990-1995
  • Hall of Fame Inductee, 1995, Lifetime Achievement Award 2008 (youngest ever, at 58)
  • A major driving force in bringing the World Veterans to the US, which led to us getting the Worlds in 2021 - well, maybe...

This is what I wrote about Dan on the page:

I first met Dan Seemiller at one of his Pittsburgh camps in 1977, my second year of play. Let's just say that I was in awe as he and his brothers (Ricky and Randy, plus Perry Schwartzberg) demonstrated and explained the various techniques. I went to another of his camps in 1978. The day before he badly sprained his ankle, and he showed up with the leg in a full cast so he could still move about to coach – and in a challenge match, hobbling about mostly on one leg, he still managed to win a challenge match against the U.S. #1 junior player, Rutledge Barry! Those Seemiller camps formed the basis both for my own game, and for my future professional coaching career. Little did I know that, one day, I'd be assisting Dan at his Pittsburgh camps in the early 1990s, and learning how to run my own camps. I'd also be his coaching chair during his USATT presidency. (And now I'm editing and doing the photo work and page layouts for his autobiography – wow!)

Dan is considered by most the greatest modern U.S. player, going back to the 1950s. He's done it all at the highest levels – player, coach, tournament director, club president, and president of USA Table Tennis. He even has a grip named after him – the "Seemiller grip." There's a reason he was the youngest person ever awarded the USATT Lifetime Achievement Award, in 2012 at the age of 58. Even now, as I write this, he's still actively playing – easily the best over 60 player in the U.S. – while coaching at South Bend and helping USA Table Tennis run training camps for their top juniors. Plus, he was instrumental to bringing the World Veteran Games to the U.S. in 2018, something he's very excited about – setting it up, running it, and playing in it.

Dan's been putting up on his Facebook page daily photos and news clippings from his past, along with daily tips. If you are on Facebook, why not friend him so you can see these daily nuggets? Here are the recent tips:

  • Always go for the shot. Many times scrambling to win a point can make all the difference.
  • In the photo, this is a late loop which I will spin heavily. If I had the time to step forward, then that would be a drive loop. Knowing that there is more than one timing position for every stroke - is a very important lesson to learn that increases one's range and improves decision making.
  • When blocking one 1st needs to assess the quality of the attack for their response. If there is plenty of energy there- just redirect it. If it lands short or is weak then block aggressively or counterattack.
  • When you lose focus, everyone does at some point, the key is to recognize it and recover as quickly as possible. Think of strategy and get your mind active again.
  • To make comebacks takes never giving up and not focusing on the score. Nothing more satisfying in sports than turning what could be a loss into a win.
  • Use your free arm to help create balance and power.
  • Develop quality serves and be unique whenever possible- racket speed is essential. Use the body to create momentum.

And now, the books, which you must buy or you will be cursed for life by the table tennis demons! (Note - some think that Dan teaches the "Seemiller grip" when he coaches. Nope, he coaches mostly regular shakehands or penhold grip, which is what's he's coached during his 45+ years coaching - I know, I went to his camps, first as a player, then as his assistant coach. The key thing isn't your grip, it's understanding the game - which is why Liu Guoliang is probably the greatest Chinese coach, even though he was a penholder mostly coaching shakehanders.)

=>Winning Table Tennis (168 pages)
Whether you're a competitive tournament player or a serious recreational player, Winning Table Tennis: Skills, Drills, and Strategies will help you improve your game. Dan Seemiller, 5-time U.S. singles and 12-time doubles champion, shows you all the shots and strategies for top level play. This book features 19 drills for better shot-making, plus Seemiller's own grip and shot innovations that will give you an edge over the competition. Featuring the most effective table tennis techniques and strategies Winning Table Tennis: shows you how to:

  • choose the right equipment,
  • serve and return serves,
  • use proper footwork and get into position,
  • practice more efficiently,
  • prepare for competitions
  • make effective strategy decisions in singles and doubles play, and
  • condition your body for optimal performance.

=>Revelations of a Ping-Pong Player (218 pages)
"If you are in the sport of table tennis, then you know Danny Seemiller, USA's greatest modern champion. In 'Revelations of a Table Tennis Champion,' the five-time U.S. Men's Singles Champion takes you through his 50 years in the sport, from the early days of training, the breakthroughs, the agonizing defeats and the great triumphs. You'll learn why the three-sport star - baseball, basketball, and football - changed his focus to table tennis. You'll experience his trips around the world, from being marched at gunpoint to achieving his boyhood dream of defeating the Chinese. But playing is only half his story. Danny, a long-time coach first in Pittsburgh and then in South Bend, Indiana, was the U.S. Olympic and World Team Coach for ten years, and was named the USOC Coach of the Year for Table Tennis three times. He served five years as president of USA Table Tennis, ran dozens of major tournaments through the years, and was instrumental in bringing the 2018 World Veterans Games to the United States. He is a member of the USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame, and in 2012 became the youngest recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award. This is his story."

USATT Thursday Night Live: Sun Seals Series Win for Team Butterfly
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins, as Team Butterfly (captained by Dave Sakai) defeats Team Nittaku (captained by Patty Martinez), 6-3. Here's video of the final match (47:25, starts with pre-game show by Sean O'Neill and Mark Thompson, with match beginning at 21:21), between Aziz Zarehbin (14, 2388, #2 in Cadet Boys) vs. Rachel Sung (16, 2406, #3 in Junior Girls, and 2019 US Nationals Women's Singles Finalist). Here's an interview with the players (16:04, starts about one minute in) before the match. Here's my tactical analysis and play by play:

Tactically, Rachel often pins Aziz on the backhand, dominating with her relentless backhand topspins, while Aziz looks for chances to counter-attack with the backhand, and to get his forehand into play. (This is often true for matches between men/boys vs women/girls.) Rachel rarely wins with one-shot winners, instead often taking several shots to force a winner, or forcing Aziz into mistakes. Aziz more often goes for big winners - and often wins or loses streaks of points, depending on whether they are hitting. Aziz often attacks Rachel's wide forehand, dominating the points when he found chances to attack that way. Rachel often serves short to the forehand, with Aziz sometimes receiving forehand, sometimes reaching over with his backhand. Rachel often serves with a semi-penhold grip - I had to watch it closely a few times to verify this. (She'd quickly return to shakehands grip afterwards.) She varies her serving motion more than Aziz, but Aziz varied his service depth more, going both short and long to the backhand, looking to counter attack when Rachel backhand loops off the long serves weren't strong enough. Rachel has a very strong forehand flip that often gave her the initiative.

The lefty Rachel completely dominated the first game, winning 11-3. She often would pin Aziz on the backhand side, and Aziz would often miss backhand counter-attacks, and wasn't able to get his stronger forehand into play enough, and was erratic when he did. Rachel was consistently aggressive, and her backhand loop forced mistakes.

The second continues like the first, with Rachel going up 10-4 - to this point she's on a 21-7 start. Until now, it's Rachel on the consistent attack, and Aziz erratic on the counter-attack, especially on the backhand. And then, suddenly, improbably, it's 10-10! Aziz is on the attack now, from both wings, and his shots are hitting. He plays a shot-making style, and often goes for difficult shots - but when they start hitting, watch out! He deuces it with a backhand kill. In the rules for Thursday Night Live there is no regular deuce, where you have to win by two points, so next point wins. Aziz serves short, Rachel pushes short, and Aziz, seemingly caught off guard (looking for a longer ball), reaches in and pushes in the net, so it's 11-10 for Rachel.

In the third, Aziz continues his strong play, and goes up 7-2 and (with a nice lobbing and then counter-attacking point), 9-6. But now it's Rachel's turn to pull off a run of five in a row to win, 11-9.  

Aziz takes another lead in the fourth, 5-1, but Rachel quickly ties it up, 6-6, then 7-7, 8-8. Aziz steps around and absolutely creams a forehand from the backhand side - but Rachel somehow quick-blocks a clean winner to the open forehand court to go up 10-8 match point, and she wins the game and match, 3,10,9,9.

Weekend Coaching
On Saturday, as usual I worked with Navin Kumar for an hour. We've spent a lot of time working on his smash, both in rallies and against lobs (which have given him some trouble). A good portion of this session I worked on his transition from backhand blocking to forehand smash. For about fifteen minutes I'd backhand topspin over and over to his backhand and middle, and he'd block with his long pips, and then I'd suddenly go to his forehand, and he'd smash, and then we'd play the point out. About halfway through, I started throwing pushes against his pushes (against his long pips, my topspins come back as backspin), he's do a quick "bump" shot with the pips (which gives me a light topspin), and then I'd counter-hit that to his forehand  for him to attack. Here's video (35 sec) of one lobbing point where I caught him on his backhand, but he somehow pulled off his own long-pips backspin lob, which landed short and didn't bounce out, catching me off guard. ("Doesn't count, can't play that one," I said to the camera.) As I've mentioned, I'm retired from private coaching, but made an exception with Navin.

I was recently contacted by Sports Illustrated about a feature they are planning on table tennis and diversity. I thought about the questions for a few days, and finally decided I was the wrong person for them to interview - and turned them over to Navin, a more appropriate choice for this type of thing. I believe he will be one of the people featured in the article. 

In the advanced junior program, I worked with group 3, and spent much of the session on basics, plus a lot of footwork and serve practice. Focus on serves was speed - the kids liked that, especially when I challenged them to knock over bottles where you had to serve fast or the ball would just bounce off. We finished with the "ten-cup challenge," where I stack ten cups and they each get ten shots to see how many then can knock down.

JOOLA Teams Cancelled; Teams in Westchester, NY
The annual JOOLA Teams in Maryland has been cancelled because of that pesky virus. However, the Westchester TTC in New York decided to schedule a two-person team tournament that weekend, with $8000 in prizes. Here's the info page. (I've been to the Teams 44 years in a row; would this count as #45? I'll likely be there coaching a team.)

How to Improve Your Backhand Loop – with Ferenc Horvath
Here's the video (9:57) from Tom Lodziak.

8 Advanced Table Tennis Drills
Here's the video (15:17) from Panda Pong.

Weekly Training Lessons - The Serve
Here's the ITTF video (4:21).

Learn the Core Forehand Drive Technique- Beginners Table Tennis Tutorial
Here's the video (5:01) from Jin Jeon Ping Pong.

New from Samson Dubina

Motion Analysis for Coaches
Here's the table tennis info page, with video (1:55).

How Much Should A Table Tennis Lesson Cost?
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

Serious Robot Training
Here's the video (15 sec) - can't wait to see this in the US. The key is these robots hit the ball at you with an actual paddle, so players learn to react to a ball coming off a paddle. It's still not completely the same, as in real table tennis you also learn to react to the opponent's backswing and forward swing before he hits the ball (which is a bit different than the robot's swing), but it's still very good training.

New from Steve Hopkins

September Westchester Little Open Recap
Here's the article by Will Shortz. Here's video of the Open Final, Sharon Alguetti vs Mishel Levinski (17:18).

$3000 Nittaku Ohio Open Recap
Here's the article by Samson Dubina.

Glory for Guangdong and Hebei at 2020 China National Championships
Here's the ITTF article as these two provinces win Men's and Women's Team Events at the Chinese Nationals. Here is the Men's Team Final (3 hours) and the Women's Team Final (2 hours).

New from the ITTF
Here's their home page and news page.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here!

Crazy Table Tennis Rallies
Here's the highlights video (4:22).

Best Table Tennis Shots of September 2020
Here's the video (13:23).

Dimitrij Ovtcharov Better Penhold?!
Here's the video (3:11) from Table Tennis Daily of the German star playing penhold - he's really good!

Top Five Penholders in Table Tennis Right Now
Here's the video (6:16).

Our Table Tennis Anthem
Here's the video (4 min) from Leo Hsu. "In a time when the sport was not allowed to be played, I followed 6 players to document the impact of the virus only to discover a unified voice (almost a song) of passion and love towards the sport." (Adam Hugh is one of the players featured.)

The Dominating Force of China National Team
Here's the video (18:37).

Japanese Men vs. Women: Brazilian Teams
Here are links to two versions, a highlights version (6:19) and the full version (16:03). The Japanese men spot the women four points in a game to eleven. Each team member goes to the table and plays a point. If they win the point, they stay; if they lose the point, they go to the end of their team's line and the next player is up. Lots of lefties!

The Mozart of Table Tennis - My RODE Reel 2020
Here's the video (3 min) from Ramon Bannister. "This is a short documentary about my life-long mentor and table tennis coach, Mozart Francois. This film is being entered into the My Rode Reel 2020 competition."

International Table Tennis Federation is Feeling Nostalgic
Here's the video (56 sec).

Jumping Jack Pong
Here's the video (9 sec) from the semifinals of the Spin & Smash Fall Open in Ohio, between Sarah Jalli and Sharon Alguetti. (Mixed in there is that great backhand loop from the barriers by Sharon, and Sarah's great block.) I sometimes do the "distraction jump" that Sharon does here - and sometimes it works! Many, many years ago I was playing USATT Hall of Famer Yvonne Kronlage and I popped a ball up. As she was about to smash, I jumped in the air as Sharon does here, waving my arms about - and Yvonne missed. She got very angry with me. I've always debated whether this is a legitimate response (which is where I tend to believe, as long as you do it silently) or poor sportsmanship, as some believe.

Ping-Pong Ninja Shirt
Here's where you can get one! (Or a mug, phone case, towel, etc, with other TT designs as well.)

Table Tennis Trick Shots
Here's the video (4:18) from 2018.

Storming the Table
Here's the video (39 sec) as Adam Bobrow's opponent takes things to a higher level.

Car Table Tennis
Here's the video (5:14).

New from Pongfinity!

***
Send us your own coaching news!

September 28, 2020

Tip of the Week
Use Quickness, Ball Placement, and Variation Against Short Serves.

Two Zoom Coaches Meetings
I was on two coaches Zoom meetings this past week.

  • Meet the Coaching Committee (26:57). This was on Wednesday, with USATT COO Mark Thompson interviewing Pieke Franssen (chair), Gao Jun, Dave Fullen, and Larry Hodges (me).
  • USA Table Tennis Coaches Catch-up (33:48). This is a new bi-weekly meeting for USATT coaches, held every other Friday at noon eastern time. Come join us! Attending this first one were Sean O'Neill (USATT High Performance Director), Doru Gheorghe (USATT High Performance Manager), Jasna Rather (USATT Director of Para Programs), Samson Dubina, Dora Kurimay, and Larry Hodges (me). For this meeting, topics of discussion were Club Status; Group and Private Lessons Status; USATT Thursday Night Challenge Update; USOPC Grants (in particular, robots and software for analysis); USATT Hopes Finals for 2020 (likely in December at Samson Dubina TTC in Akron, OH)

Weekend Coaching
Due to the pandemic, we have a limit of 12 players in a session. And so the roughly 36 players in our advanced junior program are divided into three groups. On Sunday I helped coach Group 1 and Group 3.

Group 1 was pretty strong for their ages - their ages and ratings were 12/2286 (Stanley Hsu, US #1 in Hopes Boys, turned 12 on Friday), 13/2059; 17/2038; 13/2027; 14/2022; 12/2020; 13/1986; 10/1955; 10/1901; 14/1762. (The last spot is often a rotating one from players from Group 2.) However, most of them haven't played tournaments in six months, but have been training throughout, and so are under-rated. I spent part of the session essentially standing over two players, saying, "Stay down!" over and over - both stood up too straight, and coincidentally were playing each other. (None of the others had that problem.) One player was having trouble with the humidity - the ball kept sliding off his damp sponge. I explained to him that when it's humid, you need TWO towels - one for you, and one just for the racket. They played improvised games at the end, such as one player serves short backspin, receiver pushes short, server flips or pushes aggressively long, and then play out point - but if the server won the point with his flip or push, he got two points. One kid played perhaps the best he's ever played--totally "In the Zone"--so I made sure he remembered his mental state during his play - relaxed and focused, and pretty much having fun out there.

In Group 3, I worked with three players at a time - one with me (some live practice, some multiball), with one on the robot, and the third picking up balls. We did mostly foundation work on forehands, backhands, footwork, and pushing, with serve practice at the end. The players I worked with rotated throughout the session.

On Saturday I coached Navin "Bionic Man" Kumar. He had a breakthrough on movement and smashing lobs - the latter has always been a weakness, so we've been working on it. Here's a video (22 sec).

USATT's Thursday Night Live - Joanna Sung vs. Ved Sheth
Here's the video (53:28). Sean O'Neill and Mark Thompson do the pre-game show and commentating. The actual match starts at 23:53. (It's every Thursday at 9PM - here's the info page.) After this match, Butterfly leads Nittaku 5-3. Here's an interview with Joanna and Ved (22:38, starts at 1:40) in advance of the match. Joanna is 16 and rated 2305, #9 in junior girls. Ved is 14 and rated 2303, #8 in cadet boys. 

Joanna has several serve motions, and often serves from the middle or forehand, to get an angle into the short forehand to force a forehand receive. Ved mostly served from the backhand side, also often short to the forehand. Neither wanted to give the other too many backhand flips. Neither tried to force the backhand flip as some do - so many rallies began with a forehand flip from the receiver.

Much of the match played like the previous week's match, with Joanna similar to Lily Zhang, and Ved similar to Adita "Adi" Godhwani. Like Lily, Joanna has a strong backhand, stays close to the table, and relentlessly attacks from both wings with quick topspins. Like Adi, Ved has a strong forehand and looks to end the point with it every chance. In rallies, Joanna tends to go after the wide corners, while Ved tends to attack the middle and wide forehand - just like Lily and Adi. Adi often serves long to Joanna's backhand, looking for a relatively soft topspin return, which he attacks with his forehand from the backhand side. Ved also has a similar receive to Adi on the backhand side, often dropping short to the forehand or flipping deep to the backhand or middle.

In the first game, Ved seemed tentative on the backhand, and often backed up. He did well from off the court, and throughout the match won a number of lobbing points, often by counter-attacking with the forehand. Joanna went up 7-3 and 9-7, then is down 9-10. At 10-all (with no deuce), Ved served long to the backhand, but Joanna saw it coming and stepped around and RIPS a super gutsy forehand winner! So first game to Joanna, 11-10.

As the match went on, Ved became more aggressive with the backhand, often attacking down the line to Joanna's forehand (so Joanna couldn't pin him down on the backhand with her strong backhand), just as Adi often did against Lily the previous week. This paid off as he began to win points from both wings. When Joanna attacked his wide forehand, often with strong backhands, Ved relentlessly counter-attacked, forcing Joanna to block as Ved attacked. Point after point, Ved is the aggressor, and his shots are hitting from both wings, including a lot of big forehands. Ved's attacks to Joanna's forehand from both wings especially pay off.

When Ved served short to Joanna's forehand, she often flipped aggressively crosscourt, but Ved is usually waiting and counter-attacked with big forehand loops. Ved also forehand flipped many of Joanna's short serves to the forehand, but her counter-attack wasn't as strong or as consistent.

After almost coming back to win game one, Ved dominated the rest of the way, winning the match at -10,6,6,6,7.

USATT Continues Thursday Night Live
Here's the info page. It's every Thursday at 9PM Eastern Time. This week it's Rachel Sung of Team Butterfly vs Aziz Zarehbin of Team Nittaku.

Tim Boggan Turned 90
Over 50 people wished Tim a Happy Birthday on Facebook for his 90th on Friday. Tim had no idea until he received the printout I expressed to him on Thursday. I spoke with him on the phone that afternoon, and was quite pleased! If you want to see them on Facebook, here's the main page, and here's another (from Sheri Rose Soderberg Cioroslan). On a related note, I discovered on that Friday that as Tim turned 90 on Sept. 25, US #1 Hopes player Stanley Hsu (rated 2286) turned 12! (He's from my club and I was his coach his first year before I turned him over to our 2600 coaches/practice partners. He was in Group 1 of the Sunday session above.)

USATT Board Meeting
Here is the USATT Minutes page, which includes a link to the minutes of their Sept. 14 Zoom meeting. I usually attend these meetings as a spectator, but missed this one because I didn't know about it - I guess I need to check the USATT Agenda & Notices page more often. (Nothing scheduled there at the moment, but they seem to meet once a month, so there'll likely be a meeting in mid-October.) Main issues in this meeting were the CEO Report, Audit Committee Report, Nominating and Government Committee Report (voting for two At-Large positions will be from Oct. 29 to Dec. 13 - I'll blog about this in my Oct. 26 blog); and an Executive Session (closed, presumably about legal or personnel matters).

Coaches Who Do Online Coaching
Here's an updated list. (Coaches - email me if I should put you on the list.)

  • LearnPong, with Kai Zhang, Brad Robbins, Chase Bockoven, Vlad Farcas, Andrew Williams, Christian Stelting, Bjorn Stelting, and Alfred Dela Pena.
  • Samson Dubina (OH), USATT Certified National Coach and multiple Coach-of-the-Year awards, and 2009 US Men's Singles Finalist. See his web page (scroll to the bottom of the products page).
  • Cory Eider (NJ), former USATT High Performance Director and 2013 US Men's Singles finalist, 2014 Men's Doubles Champion.  
  • Kevin Finn (NJ), Peak Performance Table Tennis
  • Pieke Franssen (CA), USATT Certified National Coach and chair of the USATT Coaching Committee. See his USATT about page
  • Matt Hetherington (NJ), member of New Zealand National Team, now coaching in the US, ITTF Level 2 coach. See also his web page.
  • Judy Hugh (NJ), former member of US National Team. See her USATT about page
  • Christian Lillieroos (CA), ITTF Level 3 coach. See his web page.
  • Sean O'Neill (OR), five-time US Men's Singles Champion and two-time Olympian, USATT Certified National Coach, and current USATT High Performance Director. See his USATT about page
  • Tim Wang (CO), three-time US Men's Singles Champion. See his USATT about page

LIVE: First Ever Online ITTF AGM!
Here's the ITTF info page. "The ITTF's Annual General Meeting (AGM) is taking place on Monday 28th September 2020 and, for the first time ever, it is being held virtually to enable the safest possible solution amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Tune in from 13:00 CEST to watch the AGM live on the ITTF’s official YouTube channel or itTV!" (NOTE - 13:00 CEST time is 7AM Eastern Time, so it's already started and probably over by the time you read this - but I believe you can see the video from earlier.)

Breaking News - Durban, South Africa will hold the 2023 Worlds, the first time in Africa. Here's the ITTF news item. They won over Düsseldorf, Germany (which ran it in 2017), 90-39. (Singles and Doubles are held in odd-numbered years, Teams in even-numbered years.) Here is more info on the World Championships, including past results.

New from the ITTF
Here's their home page and news page.

New from Samson Dubina

New from Paragon Table Tennis.

8 Forehand Loop Mistakes YOU Make
Here's the video (18:33) from PandaPong.

Tom in Training…Help Me Improve! (Sep 2020)
Here's the article and video (11:02) from Tom Lodziak.

Personalized Online Performance Coaching for Table Tennis
Here's the page from Peak Performance Table Tennis.

When Have You Thanked Your Coach?
Here's the video (47 sec).

New from Steve Hopkins/Butterfly

Name That Serve OR Stealing Table Tennis Serves For Fun and Profit
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

Putin Aide Named President of European Table Tennis Body
Here's the article from AP News. "An aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin was named the new president of the European Table Tennis Union on Wednesday."

USA Table Tennis Invites Nominations for Athletes' Advisory Council
Here's the USATT news item.

United States Table Tennis Athletes Association
Here it is - but I'm not sure how active it is yet.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here!

Best Points 2018-2020 Seth Pech
Here's the video (3:24). (Seth is currently rated 2414, has been as high as 2479.) Check out the lefty power loop in the point starting 33 seconds in!

Ping Pong in Qatar
Here's the video (17:52) from Adam Bobrow.

Play Table Tennis Images
Here's a page of them.

Ping-Pong Paddle: "I Lost!"
Here's the image!

Beer Can Pong
Here's the cartoon!

Ping-Pong Cat Shirts
You can buy them at Amazon!

Cat Playing Ping-Pong
Here's the video (7 sec) - okay, he's playing with a ball on the table.

Types of Table Tennis Players
Here's the video (75 sec)!

A Dog's Table Tennis Journey
Here's the video (89 sec) from PingSkills!

***
Send us your own coaching news!

September 21, 2020

Tip of the Week
Against a Fast Attacker, Make At Least Two Strong Shots.

USA Table Tennis Reschedules US National Table Tennis Championships for July of 2021 . . . and My Recommendation
Here's the USATT news item. Dang! But here is my recommendation.

The problem of moving the 2020 Nationals to 2021 is that you've skipped an entire year (2020), so are the winners of the 2021 Nationals the champions for 2020 or 2021? Or are they going to run the 2020 and 2021 Nationals together or back-to-back? Suppose they run both, running the championship events as they normally do, with lots of round robin events, but only running one set of rating events. This would mean going from five or six days to nine or even ten, and many players can't afford to take that much time off. It could be a logistical nightmare as well. But there's an easier way.

My suggestion is to, this one time, run all the championship events twice, one for 2020, and one for 2021 - but run them all single elimination. (That was the common practice many years ago.) Make it two for the price of one, so when you enter, say, Under 12 Boys, they put you in both events. You get, on average fewer matches in each event, but you get two single elimination events instead of one round robin event. The rating events would be run as always, as round robin events, but you don't need to run them twice.

There will be a small number of players who are eligible for only one of the two championship events. For example, a player might have been eligible for Under 12 in 2020 but is too old for 2021, or a player might not have gotten their citizenship in time for 2020 but did so in time for 2021. (You have to be a citizen to play the championship events, but not the rating events.) For those players, they'd pay half-price for the one single elimination event.

Championship events would include men's and women's singles, doubles, and mixed doubles; age events (seniors and juniors); hardbat and sandpaper events; and disabled events.

Say Happy Birthday to Tim Boggan
This Friday, Sept. 25, the incredible USATT Hall of Famer Tim Boggan will be turning 90! Few, if any, have done more for USA Table Tennis as he has over the past 50+ years - president, editor, writer, historian, Ping-Pong Diplomacy ambassador, and father of two men's singles national champions, Scott and Eric. (See his Hall of Fame profile. And browse the others - Tim wrote all 94 of them!)  He is in good health, and spends much of his time caring for his wife, Sally, who had a stroke a year ago and is mostly paralyzed. Tim's computer died a few weeks ago, and while his son Scott is looking into fixing it or getting another, for the moment Tim can't respond to emails. 

This is your chance to wish Tim a Happy Birthday, and to wish him and Sally well. You can either respond to my posting on Facebook (35 so far), comment below, or email it to me. (Tim isn't on Facebook and can't access it or this page anyway right now, but if you happen to talk to him, let's keep this a secret until Friday.) Next Thursday morning (at 10AM eastern time) I will print them all out and express them to Tim for his 90th on Friday. Feel free to share on Facebook - I'll print those out as well. 

You can also help by contributing to Tim and Sally's GoFundMe page (set up by Sheri Cioroslan, former USATT president as Sheri Pittman). "On August 27 [2019], Sally Boggan had a debilitating stroke, which left her paralyzed on her left side. She is currently undergoing speech and physical therapy. Many people have known and loved Sally for decades. And we appreciate Tim's contributions to our lives through his many table tennis ventures. Let's joyfully support Tim and Sally during Sally's recovery process."

Or you can buy one of his History of US Table Tennis Books!

Weekend Coaching
Due to the pandemic, group sessions are limited to twelve players. So our advanced junior program, which normally trains as one big group, is now divided into groups 1-3. On Sunday I was one of the coaches for groups 1 and 3.

With group 1, I had fun - I got to be a practice partner for players ranging up to 2050. For much of the session I worked with two players at once, where each would alternate playing two rallies while the other player retrieved the balls from his two rallies. I worked with them on following through back into position (or I'd punish them with quick blocks to the corners) and on return of serve - they struggled with my serves at first but got better. One exhausting drill - I would mix up my serve to their backhand, they'd flip to my backhand, and then we'd continue the rally where they keep blocking to my backhand while I forehand looped all over the table. In theory, I'm mostly staying in one spot, but in practice the ball gets moved around a lot - and since the kids are so consistent with their blocks, we had some looooong rallies, where I'd have to loop a looooot of balls in a row.

This is exactly the type of drill I need to do if I want to get in playing shape - and I was secretly planning to start training for the 2020 Nationals in December where I'd be eligible for Over 60 for the first time (and among the higher seeds), as well as the defending champion in Over 40 Hardbat (I've won it six times) and perhaps the top seed in Over 60 Hardbat, which I'd be playing for the first time. (As a reminder, I normally use sponge.) Alas, the Nationals was postponed to July next year - see segment above.

In group 3, I alternated hitting with three players. Much of the focus was on pushing, where I stressed low, deep, and heavy. We also did a lot of random drills, such as my moving the ball around on their forehand side.

On Saturday I had a one-hour session with Navin Kumar. Here are two videos:

Thursday Night Live - Lily Zhang vs. Aditya "Adi" Godhwani
Here's the video from last Thursday. (It's listed as 81 minutes, but video actually ends at 59 minutes. It starts with a lot of excellent commentating by Sean O'Neill and Mark Thompson, with the match actually starting at 22:22.) Here are photos.

Lily, rated 2596, is the current and five-time US Women's Singles Champion; Adi, rated 2563 at age 17, is #2 in Under 18 in the US. SPOILER ALERT - Lily wins 4-1, though it seemed closer than that. Lily was able to play better in the key points, both with her consistency and sometimes by getting more forehand aggressive. At key points, Adi missed big forehands that might have gotten him at least to deuce in some of the games he lost.

Adi has the bigger forehand and is a constant threat to rip winners from both wings. Lily has the edge on the backhand with her relentless off-the-bounce topspins, and she rarely makes mistakes. Tactically, they both play all three spots - wide corners and middle (roughly the opponent's playing elbow), but Lily favors going after Adi's wide backhand, while Adi favors going after Lily's middle, then often ending it with winners to her wide forehand. If Lily goes to Adi's forehand or middle too much, he gets his big forehand in, and so instead she often pins him on the backhand, often finding shorter balls to backhand attack for winners to Adi's extreme wide backhand. Adi plays the middle because Lily almost never misses from the corners, it sometimes forces slightly weaker balls to attack (as Lily has to decide which side to play and then move to the shot), and because by going there, it cuts off the extreme angle into his backhand, giving him more forehand shots. When Adi makes his big shots, he wins, but Lily puts tremendous pressure on him with her quick topspins and so few unforced errors.

On the receive, Lily mixes things up very well, with flips and both short and long pushes. Adi has a deceptive receive where he often backhand flips (favoring going to the middle), but often changes at the last second to a short receive, usually to the forehand. It's a highly effective receive pattern.

USATT Continues Thursday Night Live
Here's the info page. It's every Thursday at 9PM Eastern Time.

My Stories of Mental Toughness On and Off the Table
Here's the new table tennis book by Dora Kurimay. "I believe that the principles of sports psychology can be applied to all aspects of your life. Whether with public speaking, being a great parent, or developing your skills as an athlete. This collection of 11 stories from my life offers insight on gaining a psychological edge and attaining mental toughness."

She is also the author of Get Your Game Face On Like The Pros!: Get Your Game Face On Like The Pros! Mental Skills And Lifestyle Choices To Achieve Peak Performance And Play Your Best Table Tennis.

New from Samson Dubina

New from Tom Lodziak

New from Table Tennis Daily

Three-Step Process For Learning and Improving Serves
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

Powerful Forehand Topspin Technique
Here's the video (7:58), from Ti Long, in (I think) Vietnamese, with English subtitles.

Drop Shot Training
Here's the video (26 sec) of Adrien Flavien Cotton. Few players can do this because . . . drum roll please . . . few players practice it.

Pendulum Serve and Service Rules
Here's the video (5:14) from Jin Jeon Ping Pong.

Multiball: Forehand Drop Shot, Forehand Topspin
Here's the video (41 sec) from Mecho Table Tennis Akademy. "Improvement of Forehand Drop Shot with subsequent Forehand Topspin against push and continuation with topspin against block with change of direction!"

Joo Se-hyuk Training
Here's the video (10:25) of the defensive star - who also attacks.

New from Steve Hopkins

Timo Boll: "One of the best shots I ever made!"
Here's the video (37 sec) - and a great rally too, ending with this behind-the-back counter-hit!

Albanese Construction Feature | Ved Sheth from Kennedy
Here's the news feature (3:34) on the US junior star.

Top 5 Oldest Active Professional Table Tennis Players Right Now and Their Best Points so far
Here's the video (4:20).

Welcome to WTT Macau
Here's the ITTF video (65 sec)! That's Adam Bobrow doing the commentating.

Ping-Pong Diplomacy Of 1971, Revisited
Here's the video (4:44), about US-China Ping-Pong Diplomacy, from Jules Apatini.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here!

New from the ITTF
Here's their home page and news page.

Table Tennis Music
I run this periodically. 

Hyper Galactic Psychic Table Tennis 3000
Here's the page for this online table tennis game! Here's a demo page. One benefit of this game - one of the icons you can use is named after Robert J. Sawyer, the dean of Canadian science fiction. I've been to his writing workshops and know him well from that and from conventions. (He even gave me a nice blurb for one of my science fiction novels, that thing I do outside of table tennis.)

Snow Pong
Here's the video (23 sec)!

Car & Ping Pong Story
Here's the video (5:57)!

Barbed Brick Wall Pong
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

World's Weirdest Ping Pong Set-Ups
Here's the video (5:16) from Pongfinity!

***
Send us your own coaching news!

September 14, 2020

Tip of the Week
A Trick to Beat a Tricky Pusher.

Breaking News - US Nationals Postponed to July, 2021 in Las Vegas
Here's the news item - added on Tuesday.

Weekend Coaching
On Sunday, I worked with Group 3 of our Junior program. Most of the group did a practice tournament. However, two of the players weren't really ready for matches, and so I worked with those two the entire session. Focus was on fundamentals.

I came up with what will now go down in history as the greatest table tennis joke, to be retold through the ages. (But you have to pay me $1 every time you use it.) I asked one of the kids how many hands he has. He said two and held them up. I said I have four hands. He didn't believe me, so I shadow-practiced my forehand and said, "See, these are my four hands." (Here's the reaction.)

On Saturday, as usual I did a one-hour session with Navin Kumar. (I'm retired from private coaching, but made the one exception for "The Bionic Man." He has Parkinson's Disease and Congenital Heart Disease - his heart is mostly artificial - and he won two medals at the World Parkinson's Championships last year, bronze in singles, silver in doubles.) Here are two videos of the session:

ITTF Annual General Meeting and Japanese Proposal to Require Ball Toss Over Head
Here's the AGM Meeting Page, which will be held online on Monday, Sept. 28. Here's the ITTF AGM Working Document. The Japanese Proposal, "Proposition 16," is on page 108:

"Proposition 16 – Effective 1st January 2021 (3/4 majority required) Proposed by the Japan Table Tennis Association. To amend 2.6.2: The server shall then project the ball near vertically upwards, without imparting spin, so that it rises at least 16cm above their head height after leaving the palm of the free hand and then falls without touching anything before being struck. Rationale: To make clearer the point of decision on fault services. But this rule will not apply for players of elderly person or players of age below 9 years of age, different rule shall be applied."

This is an interesting idea, but doesn't really help with the main problem in illegal serves, which is hidden serves, where the ball is often tossed behind the head - and so the ball already goes over the head. There's a separate problem they may not have thought about - if there is no longer a six-inch toss rule, only that the ball must be tossed "above their head," then a player could simply lower his head down to table level and get away with almost a zero-inch toss. For example, here is Dmitriv Ovtcharov doing his backhand serve. Under the new rules, with some adjustment, he could serve with almost no toss at all! (The picture is from video of his first serve against Fan Zhendong at the 2020 German Open.)

Blog Reads
As I write this, the number of reads for last week's blog is 22,746, a new record. The blog was averaging about 17,000 reads each when the pandemic hit. Apparently, unable to play table tennis, players lost interest in reading about table tennis and the numbers dropped to about 11,000/blog for a time. They've been picking up again now that we're back to table tennis playing. I think part of the reason for this is that a lot of people used to go to the USATT news page for table tennis news. However, USATT has dramatically lowered the number of news items they do each week - other than links to their newsletter, they have been averaging just one per week recently. So people are going elsewhere for their table tennis news - thank you USATT! :)

I have offered to let USATT use my Tips of the Week (for free) as news items to attract readers to the USATT web page, but after running one, they stopped doing that. They also wouldn't run the interview of me that Kevin Nguyen did a month ago, telling me that they thought it would be best for my own website and social platforms to promote my personal brand. Well, I guess I could just do that! (They seem to have switched from trying to attract lots of readers to the news page to mostly running only USATT-specific news items, I presume with the idea that they want to focus on their own "brand.")

I don't get paid to do this blog - it's volunteer. (It does help some with book sales, but not nearly enough to make the time spent worthwhile.) In the past I have run paid ads on the left side of the blog, but the three current ones are non-paid ones that I do in return for favors. But now I'm thinking I really should take paid ads. But I'm not interested in running around trying to sell ads just for some extra money that I don't really need right now. But here's an offer to anyone reading this - if you want to become a TableTennisCoaching.com ad executive (or whatever else it is called), you can have 33% of all ad revenue. (I'm not interested in the hassle of negotiating that, so that's set in stone.) Contact me if you are interested. (Ads on the left are all 200 pixels wide, 100 tall. I previously charged $1/day for ads, or $250/year. But there are more reads now, and frankly, I have no idea how much the ads are worth - not my area of expertise.)

Timo "Magic" Boll's Take on the Evolution of Table Tennis Through the Ages
Here's the article. "From the size of the ball and the material it’s made of to the design of the rubbers and the set-up of the blades, table tennis has continually evolved throughout its 32 years on the Olympic programme. Few people have adapted better to these changes than three-time Olympic medallist Timo Boll, who will travel to Tokyo for his sixth shot at gold."

Timo Boll Interviews Ma Long
Here's the video (13:12) - yes, the former world #1 from Germany (and currently #10) interviews the reigning (three straight times) men's world champion, who was #1 in the world for most of 2010-2017, and is currently #3.

The Future of Table Tennis
Here's the video (one hour) featuring Christian Lillieroos. (The first half is sort of a TT history romp.)

New from Samson Dubina

Rapid-fire Random Multiball Table Tennis Training
Here's the video (3:37) from Lily Zhang, current and five-time US Women's Singles Champion.

How to Lob Like a Pro (in 4 Steps)
Here's the article by Alex Horscroft at Expert Table Tennis.

Tischtennis Shakehands GmbH
Here's a German page that features videos in both English and German.

Ball Control: Practicing Rollers
Here's the video (10 sec). "Practicing rollers to enhance touch and feel."

Welcome to PandaPong
Here are the first two videos from Brian Gao.

New from Steve Hopkins

USATT's Missionary Position
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

USATT Continues Thursday Night Live
Here's the info page. It's every Thursday at 9PM Eastern Time.

USATT News
They no longer prioritize their news page, which has had only two news items in the past week. Other than links to Insider, they recently have been averaging only one news item per week.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here!

New from the ITTF
Here's their home page and news page.

2020 NBA Playoffs and Ping-Pong
Here's the article by Shashin Shodhan.

39 Funny Ping Pong Vector Images from iStock
Here's the page.

I Just Really Like Ping-Pong, OK
Here's the shirt at Amazon!

Beetle Bailey: "Get Moving!"
Here's the cartoon from last Monday, which proves table tennis is a game of movement! Here are all 28 Beetle Bailey table tennis cartoons that I know of.

Semi-Pro vs. World no. 7
Here's the video (11:52) from Adam Bobrow.

WTF Moments in Table Tennis (furious and funny moments)
Here's the video (2:58)!

The Ping Pong Kid's Journey of Doing Trick Shots
Here's the interview (19:16) with Nick Rudd, from Kevin Table Tennis. They're both trick-shot kids!

Ping Pong from Level 1 to 100
Here's the video (4:43) from Pongfinity!

***
Send us your own coaching news!

September 7, 2020

Tip of the Week
Tactics Early In a Match: Explorers and Dominators.

My Interview at Butterfly
Here's my PongNow video (30:46) by Steve Hopkins at Butterfly! We covered a lot of material - enjoy!

Weekend Coaching
This was my first full day of coaching at MDTTC in six months. I started at noon and didn't leave until 7:15PM!!!

Because of the pandemic, our elite junior program - the "Talent Development Program" - is now divided into three levels, no more than twelve players at a time. At noon I helped coach the Level 3 group (along with John Hsu), which also is mostly the youngest group. One girl (age 7) has mostly been doing regular forehands and backhands, and lots of footwork, but has barely worked on pushing - so I spent much of the session working with her on both backhand and forehand pushing. She got pretty excited when she would pull off ones that were heavy enough that they'd stop bouncing and even bounce back into the net! Only problem was when she discovered that it was easier to get them to bounce back if she pushed high. I let her do a few like that, but then emphasized that they needed to be low.

I mostly observed and took notes the next two sessions, since I hadn't seen the players in six months. They, however, had been taking private coaching all along. They'd also developed a new, interesting habit - after a match or practice session, instead of the usual shaking of hand (a no-no these days!), they'd tap feet. Masks were worn except when they were at the table.

I can't give names, but I did see some things that needed work. In the highest group, one player had three forehand serves - pendulum, reverse pendulum, and hook (which people used to call the "shovel" serve). However, he set up differently for all three, showing his opponent which one he was going to use. Instead, I showed him how you should set up the same for all three, bringing the racket behind your back (which he already did), and not let the receiver see which serve you were doing until the racket re-appeared just before contact.

Another player had trouble with deep, breaking serves into the backhand. I talked to him and his coach about "saturation training" - the need to not just let him practice against this serves for a few minutes in a practice session, but to do it for ten, even fifteen minutes straight, in multiple sessions, over and Over and OVER, until the player has it down so well that he'll never miss another, and this type of receive becomes a strength. I had to remind another player, during practice games at the end, that he needed to attack the middle more with his backhand, not just go to corners.

There were others - I was pleased that our chopping junior was playing much more aggressively (which really throws opponents off - it should be illegal for choppers to attack, don't you think?), and another who was almost mindlessly learning to loop or counterloop any hard-hit ball to his forehand, but only because he was able to "let go" and not anticipate, just react. (And he spins the backhand off the bounce most often as well.)

On Saturday I did a one-hour session with Navin Kumar. (I'd have to cancel the previous Saturday due to a muscle pull in my back from that car accident on Aug. 21.) We worked a lot on his forehand, especially the idea of quick, punishing blocks and smashes if opponent's go to his wide forehand. I had him work a lot on smashing weak loops. Here are two videos:

  • Video 1 - smashing lobs (24 sec)
  • Video 2 - side-to-side footwork (51 sec)

RIP: Jack Howard
I just heard the news yesterday that USATT Hall of Famer Jack Howard had died. Haven't heard how. He was a big US star for many years, and could have won a number of US Opens if not for Korean immigrant D-J Lee, who he lost to in the final of Men's Singles in 1968 and 1972, in the semifinals in 1969, and the quarterfinals in 1971. (Here's the USATT obit, added on Thursday.) 

A Day with Dan Seemiller and a Digital Scoring System for Table Tennis
Here's the info flyer for the free event, to be held Saturday, Sept. 19, from 10AM to 4PM at the Donner Center in Columbus, IN. (Here's Dan's Facebook posting on it.) It's really a two-fold event - as explained by Dave Elwood:

  • First, we wish to honor Dan's many achievements by sponsoring "A Day with Dan Seemiller" event in which young players (and older players as well) may meet Dan, play a game with this great champion, receive some coaching tips from him, and, for those who would like to have one, receive an autographed picture of Dan.
  • Second, and equally important, I am writing to invite you to attend the inaugural, public introduction of the Seemiller-Elwood-Buuck Table Tennis Scoring System (SEBTTSS). The SEBTTSS is an automated scoring system that keeps count of and displays names of players, their ratings, the event in which they are competing, the type of match they are playing (2/ 3, 3/ 5, etc.), whose turn it is to serve, the current score for each player, whether or not a player needs to change table ends, the number of games won by each player, and the SEBTTSS determines when a game and/or a match has been won.

USA Table Tennis Elections
Here is the USATT Elections news item. It's timely as the deadline to apply is Sept. 10, this Thursday. The elections are for one or two At-Large Representatives (it's not clear) and one Club Representative. USATT really could use some new people on their Board of Directors, so why not run? (As I noted in my blog last week, they neglected to link to the USATT bylaws that they cited, plus it's not completely clear if the election is for two At-Large Reps, as required by the bylaws, or just one, as the news item seems to imply since it uses the singular. I've emailed USATT about the latter last Thursday morning, but no response yet.) I know of at least one person who is running for an At-Large position who absolutely should not be on the board, so I hope we can get qualified candidates to run for these positions.

BREAKING NEWS (added on Tuesday) - USATT told me that the election is for TWO positions. I recommended the news item be reworded, and it has now been changed to make this clear. 

Table Tennis - Chinese Footwork
Here are six short videos on Chinese footwork, which came out about the time I started this blog back in 2011, but I don't think I ever linked to it. Steve Hoch sent them to me and here they are!

Chorei Swing Tracker Promotion Video
Here's the video (2:47). This seems like a new invention, the world's first "Smart Swing Training Device," which comes with a computerized screen and analyzes your swing and gives statistics on your play.

New Table Tennis Book
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak on his new book, "SPIN: Tips and tactics to win at table tennis."

New from Samson Dubina

How to Generate More Spin in Your Serves
Here's the video (5:31) from Yangyang TT.

7 Best FREE Online Resources to Learn Ping Pong
Here's the article from The Games Guy.

4 Big Beginner Mistakes in Table Tennis
Here's the video (9:44) from Jin Jeon Ping Pong.

Ace Serve by Fan Zhendong
Here's the video (16 sec) - I've never seen this type of an ace! But with players more and more focusing on receiving with backhand banana flips, they are vulnerable to sudden deep serves to the backhand.

New from Steve Hopkins

August Westchester Little Open
Here's the article by Will Shortz.

Starter Paddles Don't Have To Be Boring
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Li Chunli's Decorated Table for One
Here's the article on the New Zealand star, with link to video (8:34).

Ibrahim Hamadtou, Egypt's Mr. Impossible
Here's the ITTF article on the guy who plays with no arms.

Hou Yingchau - Chopper Extraordinaire
Here's the video (5:05).

USATT Continues Thursday Night Live
Here's the info page! It's every Thursday at 9PM Eastern Time.

New from USATT
Here's their news page - but only two items since last week, on the Westchester Open (which I link to separately here) and their newsletter (which links to other news items that I also linked to). This page no longer seems a priority with them.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here!

New from the ITTF
Here's their home page and news page. Two items of special note:

September Challenge
Here's the video (23 sec) from PingSkills, where they challenge you to, "Try to roll the ball from one side to the other."

115 Funny Ping Pong Premium High Res Photos
Here they are, from Getty Images.

Ruff and Ready - British Comedy Show Features Table Tennis
Here's the video! Link takes you to 12:54, they get into it more at 13:17, with table tennis segment ending at 17:42.

Unreal Ping Pong Trickshots
Here's the video (52 sec)!

Ping Pong Best Trick Shots #13
Here's the video (2:16)!

Luckiest Serve of All Time?
Here's the video (5 sec)!

Top Ten Luckiest Points
Here's the video (3:17)!

Funny and Embarrassing Moments in Table Tennis
Here's the video (4:13)!

Wheelchair Table Tennis ft. Pro Player
Here's the video (3:13) from Pongfinity!

Trillion Dollar Bills
Long-time readers of this blog might remember that I often give out "trillion dollar bills" as rewards in training sessions. I tell them they should get their parents to videotape them as they try to use them to pay for things at stores or restaurants. This came up several times recently - I gave out several of them at the Ohio Mega Camp - so here are two videos from four years ago where I tried paying with a trillion dollar bill! (It's also good for their math skills, as I explain to the younger ones that a trillion is a million times a million, and that a million is a thousand times a thousand.)

  • Here's the video (23 sec) taken by Allen Wang as I tried to do so at a convenience store. I also tried to do so when I treated the kids to ice cream at the camp –
  • Here's the video (1:45) taken by Arcot Naresh where I treated the kids at the USATT Super Camp to ice cream, and tried paying with the trillion dollar bill.
  • Regarding ice cream, on the last day, just before I left the camp, I stocked the freezer at the house we were staying at with ice cream. Here's the video (15 sec) of the kids eating it and thanking me for it.

***
Send us your own coaching news!

August 31, 2020

Tip of the Week
Move Like a Pro.

USA Table Tennis Elections
BREAKING NEWS (added Tuesday because of timeliness) - Here is the USATT Elections news item. It's timely as the deadline to apply is Sept. 10. The elections are for one or two At-Large Representatives (it's not clear) and one Club Representative. USATT really could use some new people on their Board of Directors, so why not run?

The news item is a bit confusing. It refers to the rules for the election in the USATT bylaws, but gives no link to those bylaws. It refers to the election for At-Large Representative, but doesn't mention that, according to the very bylaw referred to, there are two At-Large positions, so presumably two At-Large Representatives will be elected - but the election news item refers to it in the singular three times, so from that, they might only be electing one At-Large Representative at this time, despite the bylaws requiring two of them. I hope they will clear this up. (Bylaw 7.6(b)(3) says, "There shall be two (2) At-Large Directors that are elected by the USATT General Members, through a process conducted by the Nominating and Governance Committee." There is nothing in the bylaws about staggering the elections of the two At-Large Representatives, so if the Nominating and Governance Committee has chosen to do that, that should be in the news item to explain why two are not being elected, as required by the bylaws.)

I know of at least one person who is running for an At-Large position who absolutely should not be on the board, so I hope we can get qualified candidates to run for these positions.

BREAKING NEWS - USATT has now reworded the announcement to make clear there are TWO At-Large Rep positions available.

Saturation Training
I mentioned in my blog last week that I had spent much of the two weeks at the Samson Dubina Mega Camp in Ohio working on my backhand. It was a textbook example of Saturation Training. This is one of the most important principles of table tennis and other sports.

There are three common ways to play your backhand - blocking, hitting, or looping. Blockers focus on quickness; hitters on aggressive hitting; and loopers on aggressive topspins. You can do a lot of other shots on the backhand, but these are the most common rallying shots that players use. (When I say "rally," that means topspin rallies, not pushing or chopping.) I've always been more or less a blocker and counter-hitter on the backhand, where I focused on consistency and placement. But I was never really that quick with my backhand blocking, and my backhand hitting wasn't that aggressive either. My consistency made up for these weaknesses, but overall, the lack of an aggressive backhand attack was always a tactical weakness in my game.

So I focused on backhand hitting the first few days of the camp - and lo and behold, it came together quickly. I think part of this was that, as a long-time coach, I really examined my stroke, and figured out why I never was good at hitting too aggressively. Part of it was I held the tip up a bit, so I lowered that, and also raised my elbow, and both paid off quite a bit.

But then I decided to focus more on backhand looping - and lo and behold, with some help from Samson and Chance Friend, that also came around. Players who have seen me play in the past won't recognize me! I still have trouble when I have to move too much to backhand loop - the huge bulk of my past training was moving to attack with my forehand - but in drills against blocks, it really came around. I also kept working on my backhand hitting.

And so, after two weeks of saturation training, both my backhand hitting and backhand looping are tremendously improved. It reminds me of the story I've often heard of Istvan Jonyer. In the early 1970s, he made the Hungarian team mostly as a blocker. Then he developed a great forehand loop, and became the best Hungarian and among the top players in the world. But his backhand wasn't so good. So he took six months off to train where he focused almost entirely on developing a backhand loop, which was a relatively new stroke back then. Result? After the six months of training . . . he lost to everyone at first, since he hadn't yet learned how to incorporate the shot into his game. But with experience, he got better - and he became the 1975 World Men's Singles Champion and was #1 in the world for something like three years.

It's not just for strokes. If you want to develop good serves, don't practice all of your serves a few minutes each. Focus on the one you really want to develop, and really work at it. If you practice serves twenty minutes, do fifteen on that serve. Train like that, and the serve can become great! (But you might want to work with a coach or top player at the start to make sure you are doing it right.) One of the interesting features of the Mega Camp in Ohio was the third week, where the focus was serve and receive. Each day had a different serve to focus on. One day we all worked on forehand pendulum serves. Another day it was the backhand serve. Another day was the tomahawk serve. And so on. By doing this, players would have at least two serving sessions that day with that serve, plus at least one drill where they would use that serve to play points. After the camp, players could then choose which one of these serves they liked, and then, using saturation training, should focus on that serve until it was PERFECT!

It's the same for receive. When asked what their biggest weakness is, most players will say, "Receive." Well, there's a simple solution to that - Practice! Find a good server or coach, and have them serve to you over and over so you can practice your receive. Have them do one serve over and over until you are really good at receiving that one, then move to another. When you are comfortable with all of them, then have the server vary the serve. (And you should do the same for them, unless you have a paid coach doing it for you.)

So instead of working equally on all parts of your game, and improving slowly but not developing any really big strengths, pick out the aspects you want to perfect and do some Saturation Training!

Larry Hodges Books
It's time for one of my shameless sales plugs for my books! They are all on both my Larry Hodges Books page here and on my Amazon page. Note the drop in price for Larry's Adventures in Europe and Egypt, from $22.50 to $9.35! (See explanation below.) If you have no interest in books, skip ahead to the next section!

Table Tennis

Science Fiction & Fantasy Novels

Short Story Collections (not table tennis, despite the titles!)

Other

  • Larry's Adventures in Europe and Egypt - The price just dropped from $22.50 to $9.35! (Amazon has minimum prices for books, based on content, and this was priced high because it's all color on the inside - but now they have allowed the price to drop, so you can now read about my visits to the historical sites all over Europe and Egypt!) Here's the Amazon description:

In Fall, 2019, Larry Hodges took off seven weeks to tour Europe and Egypt. It was an itch he had to scratch. He visited every major site he could find, especially historical ones. He saw Stonehenge, Buckingham Palace, Normandy Beaches, the Louvre and the Mona Lisa, Catacombs of Paris, Palace of Versailles, Eiffel Tower, the Alps, Venice, Florence, Siena, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Ancient Rome and Greece, the Sistine Chapel, Pompeii, Checkpoint Charlie, Auschwitz, Great Pyramids, Great Sphinx, and countless other sites, including a plethora of ancient castles, cathedrals, and more museums than I knew existed. He visited Portugal, Ireland, England, France, Switzerland, Italy, Vatican City (yeah, that's a country), Germany, Poland, Hungary, Greece, and Egypt. He visited Lisbon, Dublin, London, Paris, Lausanne, Venice, Florence, Pisa, Siena, Rome, Vatican City, Pompeii, Naples, Berlin, Warsaw, Krakow, Budapest, Athens, and Cairo. He walked the beaches of Normandy, Lake Geneva, and the Mediterranean, the banks of the rivers Liffey, Thames, Seine, Arno, Tiber, Spree, and Nile, and the Grand Canal in Venice. And he took a camel ride around the Great Pyramid. That's a lot of scratching! Join Larry on his journey, filled with historical info, tidbits, lots of humorous asides, and over 250 pictures! It also includes, "Larry's Short Guide to Europe."

Non-Table Tennis - New Used Car
As noted in my short blog on August 23, I was in a car crash on Friday, Aug. 21. My car was 22 years old, so I had no idea how to go about getting a new one. I was advised to try carmax.com, which would be the most hassle-free way of getting a car (though I might have to pay more) - and they were right! Before going, I checked online to see what cars they had, hoping they'd have something somewhat similar to what I had had before, a 1999 Toyota Corolla (bought new in 1998). They didn't, and since I know about as much about cars as a typical tree might, I went there with severe trepidation. However, the minute I mentioned I wish I could get something similar to what I'd had before, he checked other carmax dealers, and found one in Virginia with a silver 2009 Toyota Corolla with 95,000 miles - and as of this past Saturday, the car is mine!

One small problem - I walked away from the crash with mostly just scratches and bruises, but an apparent muscle pull to my right lower back is still a problem, and I had to cancel my session with Navin Kumar this past Saturday. It seems to be getting a little better.  

Attack of the Unknown
And speaking of Navin Kumar ("The Bionic Man" - Google it), this weekend I watched Attack of the Unknown (1hr 43min), which came out on Friday. Navin both acted (as Atul, a SWAT driver, with a few lines) and was one of the executive producers of the movie. He first shows up at 26:09, telling the guy in charge, "I'm ready to rock and roll, sir!" And then something happens to him at 32:50 and he's done - but I won't spoil that for you. Here's the IMDB description: "A SWAT team transporting a vicious crime syndicate boss must fight their way out of a county detention center during a catastrophic alien invasion." (I do have one comment - stop shooting at the body, shoot at the eyes!!!)

You can watch it for $6.99 directly from the IMDB page, or other pages noted on this Facebook Info Page.

New from Samson Dubina

How Chinese Kids Improve Footwork
Here's the video (3:10) from EmRatThich/PingSunday.

Tips from the Games Guy
Here's the page. (I'm not so sure about putting sunflower oil on your rubber to make it stickier - is there anyone out there doing this for that reason?)

Fastest Smash
Here's the video (2:32), with Dimitrij Ovtcharov (world #11, world #1 in 2018) topping out at 113 kph (70.2 mph). I'd really like to see other top pros at this, as well as some hard-hitting amateurs - you don't need to be a great player to be able to hit the ball really hard. I'm guessing someone's going to break 75 mph (120.7 kph), but can anyone hit 80 mph (128.7 kph)? We often hear how balls are smashed at up to 100 mph (160.9 kph), but that's not too likely. (Make sure to read the comments under the video.)

New from Kevin Table Tennis

Great Hustling Returns by Disabled Player
Here's the video (43 sec) - it's from six years ago, but it's pretty wild!

Ibrahima Diaw & Quadri Aruna | Ask A Pro Anything at home
Here's the ITTF video (45:57).

New from Steve Hopkins

The Pursuit of Belonging: The amazing and untold story of the Anderson College and Augusta College table tennis dynasties
Here's the article.

Precision Table Tennis
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

USATT Continues Thursday Night Live
Here's the info page! It's every Thursday at 9PM Eastern Time.

USATT Videos
Here's their video page, which has two new items. They don't have any new items on their news page since my last blog, the first time that has happened since I started this blog in January, 2011.

New from the ITTF
Here's their home page and news page.

Turning Point: Table tennis over engineering, the one decision that changed Sharath Kamal's life
Here's the article on the world #31 from India.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here!

Table Tennis Player Figurine
It's yours for €21.95 ($29.29), which includes tax and shipping!

Unlivably Small Apartment with Ping-Pong Table
Here's the cartoon!

Faster Evolving Players
Here's the cartoon!

***
Send us your own coaching news!

August 26, 2020

Tip of the Week
On Short Serves to the Forehand, Challenge the Forehand, Often Go to the Backhand.

Two Weeks Training at the Samson Dubina Mega Camp in Ohio
So what was I, at age 60 and out of shape, doing training with players one-fifth to one-half my age, including numerous footwork drills that left me gasping for air and my body screaming at me to have common sense and go home and watch TV?

Like many others, I was stuck at home for five months because of the pandemic, where I got way out of shape and gained weight. So I decided to do something about it. (My club, MDTTC, where I coach, was partly open, but all group sessions, including training camps, had been cancelled.) So I contacted Samson and arranged that I'd come as a player in the mornings, a practice partner in the afternoons. That would mean five hours of intense play each day, Aug. 10-14 and 17-21.

Then I hopped in my car and drove the five hours from Maryland to Akron, Ohio and the Samson Dubina TT Academy. It was a great decision, as I got exactly what I needed - two weeks of intensive training, bringing back memories of yesteryear when I regularly trained like this. Working with Samson and Chance Friend, I even improved my backhand loop to where it's better now than when I was at my peak!

The Mega Camp, with 20 tables, was three weeks long, but I'd missed week one. About 2/3 of the players were juniors - but there were others around my age. Each week had a theme:

  • Week 1: Foundational strokes and footwork (the week I missed)
  • Week 2: Tactics (37 players)
  • Week 3: Serve and Receive (32 players)

It was ironic that I was there for the Tactics Week, since I wrote Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers. But Samson covered the topic very well, often quoting from the book. On the very first day he wrote on the whiteboard the opening to the book: "Tactics isn’t about finding complex strategies to defeat an opponent; tactics is about sifting through all the zillions of possible tactics and finding a few simple ones that work." He also quoted the parts about developing a "tactical toolbox," where you develop various techniques that you can use in a match. The underlying assumption here is that they only work if you are consistent at them - but Samson expanded on that, stressing the importance of consistency or the techniques aren't helpful.

Masks were mandatory outside of the playing courts. There was a temperature check for everyone in the morning - I raised eyebrows because I always have an unusually low temperature, usually around 95, with my lowest at 94.1. I washed my hands with soap several times per day and maintained social distancing as best I could in a camp full of people.

The schedule each day was 10AM-12:30PM, 2:00-4:30PM. Each session started with stretching and easy jogging. Then Samson would give a short talk on the upcoming drills, where he'd stress consistency - sort of a secondary theme throughout the camp. Then we'd go to the tables and do a four-drill warmup. First, it's forehand to forehand, with one player looping or otherwise attacking, and the other blocking. Then the other had his turn. Then we did the same thing on the backhand side. Then we'd move on to other drills, which varied each day. The first week I was there many of the drills focused on tactical play, such as attacking the middle or corners. The second week focused on serve and receive, with a different serve emphasized each day. Between drills Samson would call us together and explain the upcoming drills. I often joined in with comments.

The others my age in the camp had an advantage on me - they were playing lower-rated players, while I was trying to keep up players from 1600 to 2700 in the morning sessions, and 1200 to 2700 in the afternoon sessions, many of them kids who played at cheetah speeds. I was worried my body couldn't take it, and it was often difficult to keep it up at high intensity. However, I had only two semi-minor injury problems. In the first week, I hurt my neck, and had some problems for a day and a half. In week two, I hurt my playing shoulder, and also had to go easy for a day and a half, mostly hitting instead of looping. But both problems eased away, and I was back to normal soon afterwards. One problem I ran into is that, even when I'm exhausted, I'm very consistent, and so some of the rallies go on for a long time, which is even more exhausting! (I kept arguing for a new "50-shot rule," where coaches and practice partners are required to miss after 50 shots. They refused.)

I had some nice practice sessions with lots of players, including some phenomenal rallies with the various practice partners. Often I'd start a session slow, with awkward and tight muscles; then I'd pick up steam and for a while I'd play like a champion; and then I'd tire and my muscles would become rebellious sloths and I'd struggle to keep it up. But I did! Here's video of one of the sessions. If you go to 1:14:25, you can see me blocking to 2700 Kai Zhang as he loops side to side. (I'm standing up too straight. I focused on staying low my second week there.)

The coaches/practice partners varied throughout the three weeks of the camp (including the first week when I wasn't there). Samson Dubina and Chance Friend were there all three weeks. Others that were there included Kai Zhang, Bruno Ventura, Sarah Hazinski, Mark Hendricks, AJ Carney, Maria Bogoeva, Derek May, Seth Pech, Anwen Harris, and Parth Nagpure. As noted, I was also a practice partner in the afternoons. My blocking really came alive during the camp, so I gave many players a nice workout. When it was my turn to drill, sometimes the kids would have to have mercy on me as I tried moving side-to-side at their pace. (It used to be much easier!) I had some vicious sessions with juniors Jacob Boyd, Rignesh Padamanur, Matthew Chamblee, Chester Taylor, Frank Yin, and many others. Other top juniors attending the camps included Sid & Nandan Naresh, and Sarah Jalli.

Besides getting back in shape, I worked a lot on my backhand hitting and looping. I've always tended to block too much on the backhand side (since I was mostly a forehand attacker), and so in many drills I focused on being more aggressive on that side, and it paid off. My backhand hitting got back to where it was decades ago, and my backhand loop improved enormously. I did many drills as a two-winged looper, something I never did in my peak years, where I mostly blocked and hit on the backhand side, with only occasional backhand loops. In my second week, when I began to focus on staying lower - something I physically wasn't ready for in week one - my forehand loop improved quite a bit.

During the lunch breaks I introduced the kids to mini-paddle table tennis - I brought five of them with me from Maryland, all with Tenergy on both sides. I also introduced them to the "Lob Game," where one player lobs, and the others line up, one at a time. If they win two points in a row, they become the lobber, and the lobbers goes to the end of the line. If the smasher loses a point, he goes to the end of the line. The kids had endless energy and never tired of these games. As I've pointed out, the kids who train hard during the sessions and then play hard during breaks are the ones who tend to learn to love the sport and stick with it long-term and become champions.

I stayed at the Red Roof Inn, the official Mega Camp Hotel, for the duration, a bargain at $49/night. It was right next door to a Walmart (which I visited every other day, mostly for snacks and drinks), as well as an IHOP, Denny's, and Applebee's, and numerous other restaurants within half a mile.

I managed to do some sightseeing. On Sunday night before the camp started, I drove 30 minutes north and walked the beaches of Lake Erie, and waded in a bit. That was the fifth and only one of the Great Lakes I'd never visited. We had the Saturday and Sunday between the weeks off, so I visited the Akron Zoo, and did a lot of reading and writing.  

It was a great camp, and a great thanks goes to Samson and the other coaches/practice partners, and to all the players and extremely friendly locals. (The only problem came afterwards, when I crashed and totaled my car on the drive home on Friday, Aug. 21 - see my short August 23 blog on this. I wasn't able to get most of my things from the car until Monday, so I stayed at a hotel in Beaver Falls, PA for three nights. The drive home on Monday was boring and uneventful, which was a good thing. I start car-hunting today.)

Samson has more "Mega Camps" coming up. Here's his Samson's Thank You Page, with more camp info and videos. As Samson wrote me about the camps, "Each of the Ohio Mega Camps coming up have a different theme.  Throughout the 25 hours of training, each of the various drills links back to the main topic of the week.  Some of his upcoming camps include match tactics, rallying tactics, foundational strokes, footwork, short game, serve variations, serve return variations, short game, and tournament preparation camps. The next three camps are Oct. 12-16, Dec. 28-Jan. 1, and Jan. 4-8."

New from Samson Dubina
I'm linking to each of these news ones over the past two weeks because they are all coaching-related, and this is "TableTennisCoaching.com"! He was busy on these even during the camp!

How to Backhand Chop
Here's the article and video (4:01) by Wang Qingliang. Even if you are not a chopper, I recommend players learn to backhand chop for situations where they are out of position, and for players who have trouble with sudden chops. (It's less valuable on the forehand side, where the body isn't in the way and so you have a bigger hitting zone and more range.)

How to Win When the Score is 10-10
Here's the video (2:46).

New from PingSkills (they're active again!)

USATT Continues Thursday Night Live
Here's the info page! It's every Thursday at 9PM Eastern Time. Alas, it doesn't say who is playing tomorrow (Aug. 27), or give the results of last week's match (where Yue Wu defeated Tahl Leibovitz).

New from USATT

Butterfly News
While I was away for two weeks, Butterfly put up a lot of news items, most by Steve Hopkins. Rather than my linking to all of them, why not browse over them?

New from the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association

New from Coach Jon

Jimmy Butler vs. Daniel Tran
Here's the video (5 min) between the four-time US Champ and the top US mini-cadet (age 13).

Table Tennis - China "New Generation"
Here's the video (7:38).

Nittaku ITTF Pongcast | July 2020
Here's the video (14:50).

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here!

New from the ITTF
Here's their home page and news page.

New from Adam Bobrow

Mirror Pong
Here's the video (45 sec)!

Tricky Fake Serve
Here's the video (6 sec)!

Junior Pool Pong Doubles
Here's the video (49 sec)!

New from PongFinity!

***
Send us your own coaching news!

August 23, 2020

Tip of the Week
On Short Serves to the Forehand, Challenge the Forehand, Often Go to the Backhand.

This Week's Blog Will Go Up on Wednesday
I was supposed to be return home on Friday night after twelve days in Ohio. However…

I left Akron at about 5:10 PM on Friday. At around 6:25 PM, while near Beaver Falls, PA, while in the far left lane (on I-76E, going about 75 mph, speed limit 70), I had a car accident. I was snacking on a bag of walnuts on my lap, which fell on the floor. I checked to make sure no cars were around and then reached for the walnuts. I inadvertently swerved right. I then swerved left to get back in my lane, but the car spun and hit the left wall. It bounced right, and I thought I'd regained control. But both left tires went flat when they hit the wall, and so I lost control, and my car spun across the highway. (But no cars around.) It hit the right side embankment and flipped in the air at least once and the landed upside down. The car is 100% totaled. 

Here's a picture.

Somehow, I came out with just a nasty cut above my right knee, numerous scratches, some bad bruises, and very sore all over. Otherwise I'm fine. Paramedics checked me out and I declined going to the hospital. I stayed Friday night at a Super 8 in Beaver, PA. On Saturday morning, I took an Uber to an Enterprise Car Rental and rented a car, and then drove over to the tow place to pick up most of my things, which were still in the car. They were supposed to be open on Saturday, but they were closed, and won't open until Monday. So I checked back into the Super 8, where I'm having a reading and writing "vacation" until Monday. Then I'll pick up my things, and drive home (four hours away).

After I get back to Maryland, I think I'm retiring from long-distance driving.

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