Butterfly Online


Larry Hodges' daily blog will go up Mon-Fri by noon USA Eastern time (usually by 10 AM, a little later on Mondays when he does a Tip of the Week).
Larry is a member of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame, a USATT Certified National Coach, a professional coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (USA), and author of seven books and over 1400 articles on table tennis. Here is his bio

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

His book, Table Tennis Tips, is also out - All 150 Tips of the Week from 2011-2013, in one volume, in logical progression!!! His newest book, The Spirit of Pong, is also out - a fantasy story about an American who goes to China to learn the secrets of table tennis, 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!

February 17, 2017

St. Andrews Invades MDTTC!!!
Yesterday afternoon, for 75 minutes, MDTTC was invaded by hordes of small creatures, students ages 8-10 from the nearby St. Andrews School - 75 of them to be exact. I ran a demonstration and exhibition, assisted by fellow MDTTC coaches Wang Qing Liang ("Leon") and John Hsu. After giving a short introduction to the sport, Coach Wang and I demonstrated the various techniques - forehands, backhands, looping, footwork, and serves. The serving demo always is a big hit as I use backspin to make the ball bounce back into the net, then directly bounce back over the net (made it on the first try), and then sidespin to make the ball curve and hit a target off to the side.

Then I went into my, "A very bad thing happened today" routine, and explained how Coach Wang told me that he believes he can beat me (!) in table tennis. And so we had it out, one game to 11, with the loser to sweep and mop the entire club. We did lots of fast counter-hitting, lobbing, smashing lobs while on my knees, blowing the ball, big racket vs. small racket, 50-foot serve from the side, the world's "first" table tennis wave (for about the 500th time). It all ended with me lobbing four of Wang's smashes back while rolling about on the ground before he finally smacked one past me to win, 11-9. (I always play the "bad guy" in these exhibitions, and always lose.)

Then I explained how to play "Master of the Table" (commonly called "King of the Table," except that's not fair to the girls). One player is "Master" and the others line up, taking turns, until one of them scores, and then that player becomes the "Master." (The more advanced version is you have to win two points to become the Master, but for this level winning one point is more fun.) Then they fanned out and played this on 16 tables for about 45 minutes. We had great fun, and hope to get a few new players out of this.

$2700 MDTTC Butterfly February Open
Last chance to enter - deadline is 7PM tonight! I'm running the 3-star tournament on Sat and Sun.

USATT Veterans and Resource Development Committees
These are newly formed USATT Committees. Are you interested in being on one of these committee, perhaps even chairing it? If so, email me. It's timely - we're actually supposed to send in our recommendions for committee chairs by 5PM Saturday. We're also getting new chairs for the Ethics and Grievance Committee (two people have already applied), the Coaching Committee (one person has already applied - not me), the Tournament Committee (Larry Rose is term limited out), and the League Commttee (I did my two years). We also will be getting a new chair for the Compensation Committee, but that person must be a current member of the USATT Board. All USATT Committee Chairs have to be approved every two years, but the rest of the committees have current chairs who wish to continue - but you can apply to replace any of them. Here are the two new committees:

  • The Veterans Committee would deal with senior issues. (I originally wanted to call it the Senior Committee, which is what a previous version of this committee was called, but was told USATT is matching the ITTF and World Veterans by using the name Veterans for senior issues, and I went along with it.) There's been a growing need for this committee, with the All-America Over-40 Table Tennis Tours and the 2018 World Veterans Games in the U.S. (Las Vegas in July). Last year when I was looking into having copies of USATT Insider printed and mailed to elderly members without an Internet connection, there was no one to turn the idea over to. I sent emails to three prospective chairs, but none were interested or had anyone to recommend. 
  • The Resource Development Committee would focus on marketing and fundraising. I wanted to call it the "Marketing and Fundraising Committee," since that's what they would do and what a previous version of this committee was called, but was told that these days companies call this a "Resource Development Committee" - which does Marketing and Fundraising. I agreed, but still find it strange to intentionally obfuscate by not calling a committee in charge of Marketing and Fundraising the "Marketing and Fundraising Committee." Doesn't "Resource Development" pretty much describe any committee? Let's see, the Coaching Committee develops our coaching resources (coaches); the Junior Committee develops our junior resources (juniors); the Umpires and Referees Committee develops our umpires and referees; and so on through the Tournament Committee, Club Committee, etc., etc. But I'm not going to fight city hall on what to name this committee since I was assured by half the board that "Resource Development" is the standard term for this. Okay, I'm sort of making fun of this, but I do find it rather funny. We live in a world where you drive on a parkway and park on a driveway, so I can live with this.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 19
Volume 19 of this series is available! Once again USATT Historian and Hall of Famer Tim Boggan has brought out another of these mammoth volumes. It covers 1991-92, with 483 pages (8.5x11 pages) and over 1800 graphics. Cost is $40, which is personally autographed by Tim. Buy the whole series - all 19 of them! - and it's $30 each. As I'm quoted on the web page, "How can any serious player not buy these books?" (Disclaimer: I do the page layouts and photo work, with much help from Mal Anderson, who scans the photos and takes about half the pictures.)

How to Get More Power on Your Forehand
Here's the new article and podcast (9:30) from Expert Table Tennis. (Here's a related Tip of the Week I wrote, "Easy Power.")

USATT Insider
Here's the current issue.

Pong Talk With the Stars: Interview with Angela Guan
Here's the interview by Rahul Acharya.

Kanak Jha with His Team in Sweden
Here's the picture.

Training for the Worlds

Xu Chenhao Highlights (Chinese Trials 2017)
Here's the video (8:10) of this rising Chinese star.

German Women Physical and Table Training
Here's the video (52 sec).

What to Look at While Betting on Table Tennis?
Here's the article, which gives eight things to look at.

Darth Vader vs. the Martian
Here's the cartoon!

Minions Playing Pong
Here's a page devoted to the Minions playing table tennis, with four videos. The latter two I've never linked to before.

Photoshopping the Pros!
Here's the video (27 sec) - Ma Long as a cowboy? Zhang Jike as a fire-breather? Or as a Prima Ballerina? Ding Ning as a sword fighter?

Send us your own coaching news!

February 16, 2017

Training to Loop Against Backspin
I had a nice session with a ten-year-old on Tuesday, Jackson Beaver, who's about 1300 but will soon be shooting up. He'd been having some trouble looping against backspin - but the reason was somewhat obvious, he stood up too straight when he played. (He's tall for his age.) So we focused on staying down for much of the session. With him, it was somewhat easy - he played basketball a lot, and so I had him "cover me." He'd immediately go to a wider stance, bend his knees, and put his weight forward, which is exactly what you want to do whether you are covering someone in basketball or playing table tennis, as explained in this tip, Your Ready Position - Think Basketball.

Then we did a three-part process to work on his loop against backspin. Throughout it I urged him to make sure at least half his power went into topspin, not just speed. First, we did multiball, where I fed backspin. Once he was in a proper ready position, he was able to generate great force and made many formidable loops. When I thought he was ready, I pulled out my defensive hardbat racket, a very slow, oversized blade that allows me to chop anything back. Then I chopped to his backhand, and he forehand looped over and over - and while I acted like this was completely normal, I was really surprised how quickly he picked this up. He quickly saw and adjusted to the balls having only a little backspin at the start of the rally, then heavy backspin as I chopped his loops back, and was able to loop over and over.

Then we went to serve and attack, where he'd serve backspin, I push to his forehand, he looped, and we played out the point. After all that looping in multiball and against chopping, he was really timed in, and was very consistent with strong loops. One of his best sessions.

And now the funny anecdote. We have a relatively new Chinese practice partner/coach, Wu Jiacheng, who doesn't speak English yet. He's about 2500-2550 or so. I asked the student above (who's Chinese) to ask Wu if he was playing in the tournament. He turned to Wu and said, in perfect English, "Are you playing in the tournament?" After I stopped laughing, I pointed out that Wu didn't speak English, and I wanted him to ask him in Chinese! (Alas, Wu will be very busy coaching this weekend, so can't play.)

$2700 3-Star Butterfly MDTTC February Open
[NOTE - this is a repeat from two days ago. You can enter until 7PM on Friday!]

I'm running the tournament this weekend (Feb. 18-19) at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, in Gaithersburg, MD. I hope to see many of you there! We've expanded our tournaments from last year, going to two days and three star events, doubling the prize money, and going from seven to ten events. Here is our tournament page (with a link to Omnipong where you can enter online), and here is the entry form. The ten events are (on Saturday, with prize money in all events): Open, U2400, U2200, U2000, Over 50, and Under 15, and (on Sunday): U1800, U1500, U1200, and Under 12. The current top seeds are:

  • Ruichau Alex Chen 2716
  • Azeez Jamiu 2639 - from Nigeria, world #370, now playing at the Westchester Club in NY
  • Bowen Chen 2598 (he'll verify tomorrow)
  • Wang Qing Liang 2502

How to Improve Your Consistency
Here's the article and podcast (9:30) from Expert Table Tennis.

5 Tips to Build an Online Presence for Your Table Tennis Club
Here's the article from Pong Universe.

ITTF World Rankings - February
Here's the ITTF video (29 sec), and here are the actual rankings.

AGTTA Host Successful NCTTA Spring Divisional
Here's the story.

The Marker Challenge
Here's the video (52 sec) at the Indian Open. The challenge was to knock the ball off with a serve, without knocking over the tube.

Buy a Ping-Pong Ball Costume!
Here's the page - for only $199, you can be a ping-pong mascot! (Or a baseball or golf ball.)

Ten-Paddle Play?
Here's the picture (with a little help from duct tape).

White Creature vs. Green Creature
Here's the cartoon!

Send us your own coaching news!

February 15, 2017

When I talk to members about how to develop the sport in this country, one seemingly simple idea inevitably comes up - they want to know why we haven't become an NCAA varsity sport. It would seemingly solve many of our problems, adding exposure to the sport, giving players incentive to develop their games in high school so as to make a college team (and perhaps get a scholarship), and of course lead to huge numbers of college players, and perhaps college table tennis on TV. It'd be the answer to our prayers! It's also something I looked into shortly after I became a USATT board member.  

Alas, the devil really is in the details, and it turns out that becoming an NCAA varsity sport isn't something that's going to happen in the foreseeable future, though perhaps someday. When the topic was raised recently via email from a player, I CCed Willy Leparulo, president of the National College Table Tennis Association (NCTTA), with my response, and asked for his input. Here is his response. (My response was somewhat similar, but without the detail Willy provides.)

Hi All,

(Thanks to Larry for ccing me on this email).

So Larry is correct that the NCAA option is very difficult to do. This is something that I have been working on for over a decade and as an organization we are no longer actively pursuing this option. Let me explain why.

1) NCAA is not accepting sports for men or coed, it is ONLY doing so for women. Currently College TT is a coed sport, not just only men or only women.

2) In College tt currently about 25% is women, not a high percentage to start with

3) There is a large proposal process that we have to go through and we have gone through its requirements and seen that we would not be able to reach the goal without a serious grassroots effort (i.e.) High School table tennis support.

In addition, it requires that 10 Athletic Directors where Table Tennis already exist to agree to sponsor (with letters of commitment) the sport at a Varsity level (highest level). We have not had success. Currently only one NCAA institution sponsors table tennis, Lindenwood University. (Note: Texas Wesleyan is not NCAA but offer scholarships and is a varsity sport.)

If we managed to get these 10 letters of commitment than we would have a decade to get 40 schools to become a full-fledged NCAA sport, and this is the killer of this all, these schools do NOT have to sponsor scholarships for the players. It is up to the school in question. The whole concept for us was being able to provide college scholarships for Table Tennis more than the affiliation of being with NCAA.

Here is the information that was provided to me a couple months ago (I get regular updates from NCAA):

On the High School table tennis side, I really wish there was more effort pushed into this area. We as NCTTA are only able to cover Collegiate Table Tennis, but we do help the NYTTA (the organization that handles High School TT in the USA) as much as we can. https://nytta.us/

Our current approach is to create as many scholarship programs in whatever kind of school be it NCAA or NAIA or any other type of collegiate organization possible. We feel that scholarship schools may be easier to help foster then being a championship sport in NCAA or NAIA. There were 3 schools that we have been assisting to help get scholarships for Table Tennis on board, all 3 fell apart when the Athletic Director's bosses (Board of Directors) of that school nixed the idea. There is interest, but it is unfortunately not catching as I thought it would be.

Last year we attended the NAIA national conference where we were invited to speak to 150 athletic directors in NAIA, we plan to attend every year as there is interest. Our overall goal is to get more schools to create a scholarship program though.


On a related note, Willy mentions high school table tennis above. Many believe that getting table tennis into the schools is the secret to developing table tennis in this country. Alas, we've tried many times, and while it sometimes happens locally, in general U.S. schools simply aren't interested in a small sport (in this country) like ours. When we grow the sport ourselves (through club-based programs), then the schools will be interested in us, and that's when they might be able to take us to the next level. But we have to get this started ourselves, though club-based programs such as junior and coaching programs, and leagues. That's how the sport developed, for example, in Europe. (In China, it was often school-based, but that was because the government ordained this. That doesn't happen in the U.S.)

How to Recover After a Wide Forehand
Here's the article and podcast (6:16) from Expert Table Tennis. (My book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers, is mentioned in the article.) One small note on the article: It says, "If you play a pivot forehand – where you go around the corner of the table and you play a forehand from the backhand side – what you want to do is make sure you never play it down the line. If you play that shot down the line you’ll be giving your opponent a really easy diagonal block which gets you wide out to your forehand making it tough for yourself."

I generally agree with this, and of course the article is focusing on how to avoid getting caught with those angled blocks to the wide forehand. But there are two times where you might want to loop this ball down the line. First, some blockers crowd the backhand, assuming you won't go down the line, and so leave it open. Against them, a down-the-line loop is an easy winner - so you should go that way if you can ace the player. (This is actually one of my favorite tactics.) Second, some blockers are slow on the forehand side, and if you slow loop down the line, they aren't quick enough to attack it, and so may have trouble with this variation - and the very slowness of the loop gives you time to cover that wide forehand. On the other hand, during my heyday I was very quick to cover my wide forehand, and looping down the line there was usually suicide - but I always had trouble covering loops into my very wide backhand, the ones Ben recommends.

Why learning to play table tennis is like learning to drive a car
Here's the new article by Coach Tom Lodziak. This is an excellent analogy that I might steal. I usually tell players how they must trust their subconscious, which is the whole point of training, to develop that muscle memory, which is exactly what you do in both table tennis and driving a car.

USATT Board Unanimously Elects Anne Cribbs as New Chair
Here's the USATT article.

USATT Club Logo Program
Here's the USATT article. "Does your club logo represent the true passion for the sport? Want to stand out from the crowd? USA Table Tennis (USATT) announced today a partnership with Manna Creations to offer USATT Affiliated Clubs the opportunity to design its own customized logo for use on websites, apparel, and more! For just $100, clubs will receive a design consultation with Manna Creations’ Charlie Jahner, the choice of two customized logos, and multiple file formats for virtually every use (embroidery file not included)."

USA's Brotherhood of Table Tennis Ready to Take on France
Here's the article by Matt Hetherington on the Alguetti brothers in France.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 18 (1990-1991)
Here's chapter 21! Or order your own print copies at TimBogganTableTennis.com.

Love Table Tennis
Here's the video (7:27) featuring the "Ten Best Table Tennis Shots." (I don't think I've linked to this.)

One-Legged Looping Pong
Here's the repeating video (7 sec) - why can't you loop like that with your TWO legs? He has amazingly good form. I wonder if he was a top player who lost a leg, or learned to play with only one leg?

Mario Brothers Pong
Here's the video (2:05) as plumber Mario and his brother Luigi go at it! (For you really young know-nothings, it's from the Mario Brothers video game.)

Deadly Green Monster Plays Pong
Here's the picture!

Non-Table Tennis - Funny Horror
This anthology of humorous horror stories went up on Amazon just yesterday. It includes a story by me, "Happily and Righteously." (Yes, they paid me for it!) The story is about paranoia, where every paranoid thing comes true, and features numerous assassins out to get you, a "deadly green alien" (see coincidental segment above!) and "the unimportant person who is no longer a part of this story" who keeps popping up in strange situations. The story was cited by the reviewer as one of the best in the anthology, and described it as "Brilliant!"

Send us your own coaching news!

February 14, 2017

$2700 3-star Butterfly MDTTC February Open
I'm running the tournament this weekend (Feb. 18-19) at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, in Gaithersburg, MD. I hope to see many of you there! We've expanded our tournaments from last year, going to two days and three star events, doubling the prize money, and going from seven to ten events. Here is our tournament page (with a link to Omnipong where you can enter online), and here is the entry form. The ten events are (on Saturday, with prize money in all events): Open, U2400, U2200, U2000, Over 50, and Under 15, and (on Sunday): U1800, U1500, U1200, and Under 12. The top seeds most likely are:

  • Ruichau Alex Chen 2716
  • Azeez Jamiu 2639 - from Nigeria, world #370, now playing at the Westchester Club in NY
  • Bowen Chen 2598
  • Wu Jiacheng - unrated but probably around 2550 or so. For seeding purposes, I'll have to assign him a rating.

USATT Teleconference
We had a USATT Teleconference last night at 7PM. (I had to cancel or reschedule 1.5 hours of lessons, but that's part of being on the USATT Board.)  We had 100% attendance at the meeting, with all nine board members present, which hadn't happened in years (mostly because one of the previous player reps missed most meetings).

The meeting started with a welcome and introduction to new At-Large Board Member Rajul Sheth, who was elected to the Board in January. Then came election of the new Chair of the Board, since outgoing chair Peter Scudner was term-limited out. I had considered running, and a couple of people had urged me to do so, but the position is mostly bureaucratic (running meetings, etiquette, etc.), and I don't think I'd be interested or particularly good at it. The only person running was Anne Cribbs, and so she won unanimously. We also voted and unanimously approved Dennis Taylor as USATT Secretary, which is also a volunteer position that takes the minutes for USATT meetings.

The bulk of the meeting we discussed upcoming USATT Committee appointments. Many committees will stay the same, but there will be a few changes. I'm stepping down as chair of the League Committee. I blogged about this on February 2 - see the last part. We don't currently have anyone in mind for that position. The Coaching Committee hasn't had a chair for about a year; I may be interested in that. (I chaired that committee from 1991-95, and was a member of it again 2010-2013.) Committees that will likely remain unchanged (subject to Board approval at our March meeting) include the Rules, Umpires and Referees, Clubs, Classic Table Tennis, Juniors, High Performance, Nominating and Governance, and Audit Committees. We'll be getting new chairs for the Ethics and Grievance Committee (two people have already applied), the Compensation Committee, and the Tournament Committee (Larry Rose is term limited out). 

We also brought back two past committees, the Veterans Committee and the Resource Development Committee. (I made the motion for both of these.) For many years we had a Senior Committee, but it had been vacant for the last few years, and so was dropped from the committee list. I've had several times where I needed to deal with senior issues, such as when I tried to arrange for printouts of USATT Insider to elderly members who didn't have Internet access, but there was no committee to work out the details on this. We also could use such a committee to deal with USATT issues with the 2018 World Veterans Games coming up in Las Vegas in July next year. (I initially moved for a Seniors Committee, but CEO Gordon asked if I could change it to Veterans, as the preferred name these days for all events from over 40 on up.)

My initial motion was also for a Fundraising and Marketing Committee, another committee we'd had that had become vacant and dropped. Ed Hogshead and others recommended calling it the Resource Development Committee, and I agreed. I believe Rajul might get involved with this one.

Board members are supposed to put together their recommendations for committee chairs by this Friday.

Next we discussed the USATT Board meeting schedule for this year. We agreed to have monthly teleconferences at 7PM on the second Monday each month, I think for the next six months. We'll discuss our in-person meetings at the next teleconference, on March 13.

Next we discussed SafeSport and NewCo, which I discussed in my January 26 blog, which included my criticism of some of the SafeSport requirements. There'll be USATT news items on these soon. I did manage to get some of the SafeSport requirements narrowed down to mostly those directly involved with athletes.

And now we get to the Great USATT Scandal of 2017, the one that puts Watergate, Flynngate, and the great Bowling Green Massacre Scandal to shame. The meeting was done, and we agreed to adjourn, but someone had to make the motion to adjourn or we'd be stuck there on our telephones forever. I made the motion, and a split second later, Ed Hogshead did so. I WAS FIRST!!! But scandalously, the new Chair of the Board heard Ed's motion and not mine (we were talking at the same time), and so HE will officially get credit for the move to adjourn, while I only got to second it. This is scandalously inaccurate, and someday perhaps historians will act to address this historic and YUUUUUGE wrong. So sad. I WAS FIRST!!!

Happy TT Valentine's Day
This is what you get when you Google "Table Tennis Valentines Pictures."

3 Exercises to Improve Your Consistency
Here's the coaching article from Coach Me Table Tennis.

How to Select Which Rubbers to Buy
Here's the new article and podcast (7:50) from Expert Table Tennis.

Can Dimitrij Ovtcharov record a hat trick of titles?
Here's the ITTF article.

Some Great Points from Last Year
Here's the video (2:34), with some great British commentary!

Kanak Jha at the Swiss Open

Trick Shot Challenge
Here's the video (27 sec) where players are challenged to go around the net and hit a ball on a stand. It's part of a promotion for the Indian Open.

Cartoon Kitty Cat Action Pong
Here's the picture. (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

"Bunsen is a Beast" Pong
Here's an octopus playing Bensen, the "monster" who is standing on Mikey's shoulders. It's an animated Nickelodeon show that I never knew existed until I saw this picture and researched it.

Send us your own coaching news!

February 13, 2017

Tip of the Week
When Caught Off Guard, Roll or Chop, and Keep the Ball Deep.

Club Friday at Potomac Community Center
On Friday night, 7-8:30PM, I helped run an exhibition/demonstration/clinic at the Potomac Community Center, which is also home to the Potomac Country TTC. Several dozen kids took part, roughly ages 8-10, as part of the weekly Club Friday, where hundreds of kids meet at the Center for various activities and games. We shared the gym with basketball.

A big thanks goes to PCTTC president Herman Yeh, who helped set things up, and to the PCTTC volunteers - Zhuqing Li, Kangmin Zheng, Fei Yin, Xin Huang, Matt Wu and Michael Clarke, who all helped out by hitting and coaching the kids. Zhuqing Li took photos - here's a gallery. (In photo 7 I'm teaching some of the kids how to balance the ball in the air by blowing it!)

I gave a short talk at the start, where I talked about table tennis at the Potomac TTC, the junior classes I teach at the local Maryland Table Tennis Center, and table tennis in general. I found that many of them actually knew that table tennis was an Olympic sport! That's new - past generations usually didn't know this, so it was a pleasant surprise. I then did a short demonstration of the strokes with Michael Clarke - forehands, backhands, etc., and then a demonstration of spin serves. The kids went crazy when my backspin serves came back into the net, including the infamous bounce-back serve that bounced back over the net on the first bounce. I demonstrated sidespin by serving from my forehand corner crosscourt, with the sidespin (and a little backspin) pulling the ball sideways so that it hit a paddle I'd stuck on the right side near the net.

Then Mike and I did a rather humorous exhibition, which I introduced by saying, "A very bad thing happened today." When the kids all leaned forward to find out about this "bad" thing, I explained that just one hour before, Michael had told me that he could beat me. "He thinks he can beat ME!" I exclaimed over and over. And so it was on - with the loser having to sweep and mop the gym (or so I claimed). As usual I played the bad guy, and so everyone was quickly rooting for him. I'd insist they cheer when I won the point, and boo when he scored, and of course the kids did the reverse. I cheated, tried bribing the scorekeeper, and so on. We did the first table tennis wave in history (for about the 500th time over the years, but don't tell them). I also managed to throw in my 50-foot serve from the side, blew the ball over the net, lots of lobbing, and brought out the big paddle and mini-paddle. As always, I lost, where I was rolling about on the floor lobbing on the last point before Michael finally smashed a winner to win 11-9.

I explained how to play "King of the Table" (or Queen, for the girls), and sent them out to play on their own. Most preferred free play, and just rallied - we weren't picky about the serve rule. The volunteers from PCTTC fanned out and hit with the kids, who were convinced they were all professionals. The kids had a great time - who knows, perhaps we'll be seeing a few of them again at one of the clubs.

Weekend Table Tennis
It was a pretty busy table tennis weekend, in addition to the Club Friday event (above). On Saturday the highlight was the MDTTC Junior League, which is both a league and training. The focus of the night for the roughly 25 players was serve and attack, with the coaches who ran the league coaching the players between points to be more aggressive on this. I was assigned seven players, who played a RR while I took notes on their play.  

Sunday I coached from 1:45-8:30PM, with both private coaching and three 90- minute group sessions. In a private session I worked with Todd, who was pretty happy with his performance in the Junior League the night before - he went 3-2, pulling off two "upsets." In the Beginning Junior Class I teach the focus was on the 2-1 drill (backhand-forehand-forehand, also known as the Falkenberg Drill), and then on pushing. In the advanced "Talent Group," I fed lots and lots of multiball to my group of four players, then worked with four others on serves. In the Adult Training session I run, the emphasis was serve and attack versus push. It finished at 8:30 PM, and then we had to pick up all the balls, and return them and other equipment to the office. And miracle of miracles, I was able to get home by 9PM to watch The Walking Dead!

USATT Announces Schedule of 2017 ITTF Hopes Qualifier Events
Here's the USATT info article, which includes the schedule. There will be five events, each on a weekend, with a camp on Saturday and a tournament on Sunday. The regional events will take place in Maryland (MDTTC, March 4-5), California (GLTTC March 11 and ICC April 1), Houston (HITTC, March 18-19), and New Jersey (NJTTC, March 25-26), with the North American Finals held in New Jersey (LYTTC, April 29-30). I'm running the tournament at MDTTC, and will be one of the coaches in the camp.

How to Add Whip to Your Forehand
Here's the article and podcast (5:34) from Expert Table Tennis.

11 Opponents - This year, become a tactical tournament player!
Here's the coaching article (and links) from Samson Dubina.

Table Tennis Timing: Perfect Your Stroke
Here's the video (9:08).

Nittaku ITTF Monthly Pongcast - January 2017
Here's the video (8:17).

Kanak Jha in Slow Motion at the DHS Swiss Table Tennis Open Lausanne
Here's the video (28 sec).

Bids Open for 2018 ITTF World Tour
Here's the ITTF article.

Dimitrij Ovtcharov Claims Victory in DHS 2017 Lausanne Open
Here's the article from TT News 365. Here's the ITTF article.

Zhang Jike "having normal training" States Liu Guoliang
Here's the ITTF article.

"I expect our players to produce some surprises": Massimo Costantini hoping to see a few upsets in New Delhi
Here's the ITTF article featuring Indian Coach (and former USA Coach) Costantini.

Avengers assemble; 12 strongest players on earth found at China trials
Here's the ITTF article.

Vacuum Pong?
Here's the video (43 sec) where the coach has set up a vacuum cleaner shooting air outward, holding a ball in the air, so a beginning student can practicing hitting it! I may have to try this.

Mozart with a Ping Pong Racket
Here's the video (1:23) as this concert musician plays violin and sings, all while bouncing a ball on a paddle in time to the music!

More Minion Pong!
Here's a new video (44 sec) of two of them going at it, with nice sound effects as they grunt and smack the ball around. (Here's the previous version - a repeating gif image.)

Send us your own coaching news!

February 10, 2017

Upcoming Events
Things are busy these days . . . but they always are, with all my writing projects in addition to coaching, and USATT and MDTTC work. I spent part of yesterday working on the cover for "More Table Tennis Tips" (which I blogged about yesterday) - I've got several options I'm working on. The one I'm leaning toward right now is either really good or really corny, I can't decide yet. I also spent much of yesterday at the car place, where they were replacing the broken windshield. What had started out as a small crack had grown until it went all the way across. The fan for the heat and AC also had broken and had to be replaced. Total cost: 11 table lessons (i.e. how much I normally make in 11 hours of coaching.)

Here are upcoming events.

  • Fridays are usually a day off, but not today. Tonight at 6:30PM for about two hours I'm running a volunteer exhibition/demonstration/training camp for up to a hundred kids at "Club Friday" at the Potomac Community Center, home of the Potomac TTC.
  • Saturday has recently been my other day off - surprisingly, since that's when lots of players are free for coaching. I'm opening up Saturdays again for coaching starting this weekend, and already have two sessions scheduled. From 6:30-8:30PM I'm helping with the MDTTC Junior League & Training, where many of our top juniors come in for training and match play. We often have them do "improvised games." In the last session, they played league matches where if you serve and looped, and your opponent returned your loop off the end, you got two points. The same if the receiver looped the serve and the server returned it off the end. The idea was to emphasizing looking to loop and to loop with great spin, so as to force returns off the end.
  • Sunday I have two hours of private coaching, then a 90-minute beginning class I teach, then the 90-minute "Talent Program" (our top juniors mostly under age 10), then the 90-minute adult training session I run. Then I rush home to watch "The Walking Dead"!
  • Monday I normally have 2.5 hours of coaching, 5:30-8:00PM but we have a USATT Teleconference at 7PM, and I need to be home for that (so I have access to my computer and Internet), so I have to leave by 6:30PM. I rescheduled one hour of it for later, and cut a 90-minute session to 60 minutes. As to the meeting itself, it'll be our first one with new board members Rajul Sheth (newly elected At-Large Rep) and player rep Eric Wu, and the second one for player rep Tara Profitt and National Organizational Director Deepak Somarapu. Agenda includes welcoming new members, election of new board chair (not sure who's running yet), discussions of committee appointments and upcoming meetings, and possibly a couple other items. I'm especially interested in the committee appointments, as there are issues I want to work on that are held up until certain committees are filled. (In particular, the coaching committee - I have some proposals I want work with them on.)
  • Tuesday and Wednesday I have two and three hours of private coaching, respectively.
  • Thursday about 100 kids from the highly exclusive private St. Andrews school in Potomac, MD come to visit at 1PM. I'll be doing exhibitions and demos, and then organizing games, along with fellow coaches Wang Qing Liang and John Hsu.
  • Friday I set up and Saturday and Sunday I run the 3-star $2700 MDTTC Butterfly February Open. Why not come and join us? You can enter online!

Chinese World Team Trials
They are doing daily coverage at ttnews365.

  • Day One - Feb. 8: World Table Tennis Championships: China Begin. ("Ma Long and Zhang Jike are already guaranteed positions in the elite squad heading for Düsseldorf.")
  • Day Two - Feb. 9: China Selection Trials: Xu Xin Capitulates

How to Practice Table Tennis Alone
Here's the new article and podcast (11:29) from Expert Table Tennis.

How to Return a Sidespin Serve
Here's the article by Coach Tom Lodziak in England.

Here's the USATT article. I have mine!

Over Half a Billion Watch Table Tennis at Rio!
Here's the article by Coach Shashin Shodhan from the Fremont TTC.

Samson Dubina on News 19
Here's the video (2:22). Yes, he's in the news again!

How to Make a Self-Playing Hand-Held Mini-Table
Here's the video (52 sec) - set to music!

35 Seconds of Extreme Multiball
Here's the video - I've linked to it before, but thought it'd wake you up and inspire you to train this weekend!

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

Angry Paddle: Is it Ping Pong or Table Tennis?
Here's the cartoon!

Send us your own coaching news!

February 9, 2017

More Table Tennis Tips
Yesterday afternoon I finished proofing and formatting my 12th book, "More Table Tennis Tips." It consists of the 150 Tips of the Week I put online from 2014-2016, but in logical progression. It'll likely be about 240 pages, and should be out around March 1. I blogged about this on Monday. (It's the sequel and companion to Table Tennis Tips.) Last night I sent it out to the "Fearsome Foursome," who are proofing it - Kyle Angeles, Mark Dekeyser, John Olsen, and Dennis Taylor. A great thanks goes to them! (Plus mention in the book, free autographed copies, and appointment to my cabinet when I become U.S. president.)

Here's a funny story. I did all my proofing the last two days at Ledo's Pizza. After I finished yesterday, I returned home with the manuscript in a carry bag, and several slices of pizza in a carry-out box. I was thinking feverishly about the cover - lots of ideas. I opened the refrigerator and began putting the carry bag inside! I stopped, then went to the closet, and sure enough, I'd put the pizza box there, where I keep the carry bags.

Regarding the cover, I've got all sorts of crazy ideas, and may play around with them over the next few days. Me coaching a group of animals, all holding paddles? Me, as Moses, holding the two tablets - "Table Tennis Tips" and "More Table Tennis Tips"? (But the latter would then be a picture of Moses holding the two tablets, one of which would be a picture of Moses holding the tablets, one of which would be a picture of . . . you get the idea.)  Or I could just throw in another picture of me coaching a group of (human) players.

How to Read Your Opponent’s Placement
Here's the new article and podcast (5:49) from Expert Table Tennis.

USATT Insider
Here's the new issue that came out Wednesday.

2018 ITTF World Tour Open for Bidding
Here's the ITTF article.

Table Tennis Lessons from the Super Bowl
Here's the new article from Coach Jon.

Round Rock Texas Lands 2018 NCTTA Championships
Here's the USATT article.

Timo Boll "Ghost" Recovery at the 2017 Europe Top 16
Here's the video (30 sec).

10,000 Ping-Pong Balls on a Trampoline
Here's the video (11:22)! (The first three minutes is mostly setup.)

Send us your own coaching news!

February 8, 2017

Learning with Other Grips
Yesterday, during a session with Daniel (12, about 1700), we had a huge breakthrough - and it came in a completely unexpected way. He's always had a problem when forehand looping in that he backs up and then reaches slightly forward to contact the ball, and ends contacting the ball too far in front. This means he loses the natural power of the body rotating (torque), and so most of his power comes from the upper body. The result is a soft loop that's steady but not very powerful. It also puts a strain on his shoulder, which has led to shoulder problems in the past. We've been working on this for a long time, and sometimes he'll start doing it properly, but he generally falls back into the old habit.

Yesterday, when I was blocking to his forehand loop, on the spur of the moment, he suddenly switched to penhold and continued looping. I started to say something, then stopped. With the penhold grip, his stroke was almost textbook! He was contacting the ball to the side of the body, and rotating into it just right, without backing up. What was going on?

Then I realized what was happening. Hold a racket out shakehands and imagine looping. Then, without moving your arm, switch the grip to penhold. Notice how the racket moves backwards and down? By moving backwards, it "forced" Daniel to contact to the ball to the side. By moving downwards, it "forced" him to take the ball higher, and thereby closer to the table. The result was exactly the stroke I'd been trying to get him to do for quite some time.

We spent over half of the 90-minute session on this, where he learned to do this shakehands. Before, he sort of knew what he was supposed to do, but change is difficult. When you change one part of a stroke, it changes the timing of the rest of the stroke, meaning you have to make a lot of changes at the same time, which is why it's so hard to change bad technique. But with the penhold grip stroke as his guide, Daniel was able to make the change to doing so with his normal shakehands grip, and spent the rest of the session looping better than he'd ever looped before.

At the end of the session I pulled out a defensive hardbat and played him games where I chopped. Normally I'd have won easily, but for the first time ever he had enough power to put the ball past me when I gave him a chance, and the result was a series of close games, including one that he won. If he incorporates this "new" loop into his game, he'll be 2000 level this year.

This reminded me of my own experiences in learning with other grips. When I was developing my game in the late 1970s I often practiced with Brian Masters, who used the Seemiller grip, with a very strong backhand blocking/hitting game. I've always had a tendency to be too soft on the backhand. So early on I discovered that a way to fix this was to shadow practice my backhand with the Seemiller grip, copying Brian's stroke - and then, using the same stroke, switch to shakehands. The result was always a more aggressive backhand.

How to Improve at Tennis and Table Tennis Simultaneously
Here's the article and podcast (6:39) from Expert Table Tennis.

Rajul Sheth Elected to USA Board of Directors
Here's the USATT article. He and I are the only two members of the USATT Board (nine people) elected by the membership. Welcome aboard!!! 

Yuxiang (James) Jin Interview
Here's the USATT interview by Rahul Acharya.

Atlanta Falcons and Super Bowl Pong
Here are links to four major news media articles (NPR, Rolling Stone, AOL, and ESPN) on the Atlanta Falcons and table tennis, from Fremont TTC. (I think I linked to a couple of these last week.) This was a ping-pong Super Bowl, with Tom Brady (here's an article on him and table tennis, which I linked to last week), and table tennis in the Pizza Hut commercial (which I also linked to).

Susan Sarandon and Why Ping Pong Rocks
Here's the ITTF article and video (65 secs, from 2011), where she gives her top five reasons.

JOOLA North America Named Official Equipment Sponsor of 2018 World Veterans Championships
Here's the USATT article.

Samson Dubina on Sports Extra
Here's the video (3:01).

More of Adam Bobrow Exhibition with "Kai" (in Taiwan)
Here's the video (36 sec). This time they're rolling around on the floor.

They Didn't Teach This in Worm School
Here's the review of this book, which includes this picture of the worm's home, complete with table tennis room! From the text: "Of course there's a table tennis room. Of course there is. The thing is, once you've seen that, you can't help but imagine two worms playing table tennis, and that is Simone Lia's genius."

Animated Kittens Playing Table Tennis - and Obama Watching!
Here's the repeating gif image. Here's another one. And here's Barack Obama watching the game!

Send us your own coaching news!

February 7, 2017

Navin - Looping and Smashing
I had a nice session with Navin Kumar last night. He's about 1500 level now, a blocker with long pips on the backhand (no sponge). I've been working with him for about two years now. During that time he's gone from 856 to 1426, and is poised to make the jump to about 1600. Some of you might recognize him as "The Bionic Man," who's had a lot of news coverage because of his artificial heart and Parkinson's. (Google "bionic man Navin Kumar.") He often plays in paralympic events. 

Yesterday we started serious work on looping for the first time. I've been holding back on this so we could focus on his regular forehand (which he really didn't have at the start), backhand blocking, and receive. Now that that the forehand is getting better - at least in practice! - it was time. We might have done this last year but he was preparing for the Nationals in December, and we decided to hold back until afterwards. Then he came down sick for a while, so we're just getting to this now.

He picked it up pretty fast in multiball, looping against backspin. At first he had a little trouble distinguishing between looping and driving with topspin, which are both on the spectrum from flat hits to spinny loops. I thought this was going to be a long session as I tried to get the stroke right, but to my surprise and happiness, he picked it up very quickly, and soon was ripping big loops all over the place. It's his new toy now!

Then I told him I was going to feed him backspin then topspin, alternating, and he was to loop the backspin, smash the topspin. I also told him his first smash would go off the end - and of course it did, as it does for everyone at this point. (After dropping the shoulder and lifting against the backspin, they do a slight amount of this on the smash, and that's all it takes for the ball to go sailing long.) After smashing, there's also a tendency to shorten the backswing on the loop, so the two main areas of focus on this drill are full backswing on the loop, shoulder up on smash. The different contacts are also key - sinking into the sponge (but not into the wood) for the loop, right into the wood for the smash (but still with topspin - sort of a glancing upward blow at contact).

We're going to keep working on this with multiball to really ingrain the stroke. Then we'll move to doing it in real rallies. The difficult part here is he tends to stand in a backhand position for his blocking. Against backspin, he'll need to pull his right foot back to loop. Then we'll work on following up the loop with a smash. If he loops to the opponent's forehand, probably 90% of returns will come back to his forehand, where he can smash.

Navin reported muscle soreness a few hours later - to be expected since he's using muscles he didn't use much before. We'll get them in shape!

So the focus in the near future will be on looping, smashing, foot positioning, and perhaps also on serves.

New from Expert Table Tennis by Ben Larcombe
Here are two new ones, both articles and podcasts.

2017 Butterfly Arnold Table Tennis Challenge New Year New Elements
Here's the article by Barbara Wei.

Former Colombo Mob Boss Sues for $10 Million Over Injuries from Prison Ping-Pong
Here's the article from the New York Daily News. "Leave the ping pong paddles, file the lawsuit. That's what former Colombo crime boss Thomas (Tommy Shots) Gioeli has done — suing the federal government for $10 million over injuries from a game of prison ping-pong."

$2700 MDTTC Butterfly February Open
I'll be running the 3-star $2700 MDTTC Butterfly February Open, Feb. 18-19. Last year the tournaments were one-day 2-star events, but we've gone to two days, added three more events, and doubled the prize money. Hope to see you there!

Capital Area League
They had a meetup this past Saturday, with 23 teams in four divisions, and about 90 players. Full results are on the Capital League website - click on the division for results. The league is for players in the Washington DC area, which includes Maryland and Northern Virginia.

Gregg Robertshaw Wins 23rd Cape Fear Table Tennis Open
Here's the article about the North Carolina tournament.

2017 ITTF-Europe Top 16 Highlights Ovtcharov v Shibaev (Final)
Here's the video (4:23).

Table Tennis Training and the Big Match: The Musical
Here's the video (3:21) from a month ago. The music doesn't start until 25 seconds in.

50-foot Bouncing Pong Pool?
Here's the video (14 sec, with slow-mo replay) of Allen Wang's long-distance

Nerdy Trek Pong?
Here's the picture!

Send us your own coaching news!

February 6, 2017

Tip of the Week
Top Ten Ways to Win and Lose a Match. (As explained in my Dec. 28 blog in the Tip of the Week, I'm putting up extra Tips of the Week and post-dating them for earlier in December so I'll end up with 150 Tips for the period 2014-2016. So today's Tip of the Week is dated Dec. 31. This is the last one, so now we can finally celebrate the New Year!)

More Table Tennis Tips
I've spent much of the last few days formatting my next table tennis book, the creatively titled "More Table Tennis Tips." This has the 150 Tips of the Week I've written over the last three years, 2014-2016, but put together in logical progression. This is both a sequel and companion piece to my previous book, "Table Tennis Tips," which had the 150 Tips from 2011-2013. Both go with another of my books, "Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers." (Yes, shameless book promotion!)

This tips in this volume range over nine basic topics: Serving, Receiving, Strokes, Footwork and Ready Position, Tactics, How to Improve, Sports Psychology, Equipment, and Tournaments. It's about 73,000 words, and will likely be about as many pages as its predecessor, which was 228.

I hope to finalize the pages today, then print out and proof over the next few days. Then I'll be contacting some of my regular proofers (some are learning about this for the first time as they read this!) to see if they are available for proofing. If all goes well, it'll be out perhaps by the end of the month.

The Super Bowl really helped my work! Normally I coach until 8:30PM on Sundays, but because of the Super Bowl we didn't have two 90-minute group sessions, and so I finished at 5:30PM, came home, and worked on the book. I actually did watch some of the Super Bowl, interspersed with work.

Now some venting: The formatting is tedious!!! First, I had to organize all 150 of the tips into the nine categories above, which was rather time consuming, and tricky since some could fit in more than one category. Next they had to be organized in logical fashion inside each chapter. Then came the actual formatting for the pages, another huge project. Besides all the headings, the paragraphs had to be switched from online format (line space between paragraphs, no indent) to print format (no line space between paragraphs, indent each paragraph). With all the headings and bulleted lists, I couldn't do a global change, so had to do it page by page. There were a couple dozen other items on the "todo" list to fix up, but most are done.

Next big job: the covers. I have a rather crazy idea for the front cover, and may start playing around with it tonight. It involves pictures of animals learning table tennis! If it's too silly for the front cover, perhaps it'll be on the back cover.

Europe Top 16 Championships
Here's the home page for the event held this past weekend in Antibes, France, with complete results. Here's the news page with lots of articles. Congratulations to Li Jie and Dimitrij Ovtcharov!

Controversy at Europe Top 16 - Simon Gauzy vs Alexander Shibaev (Semifinals)
Here's video starting at 9-all in the sixth, the next-to-last point in the match. Gauzy thinks he's won a lucky point, but umpire (and video) say it missed, hitting the net's clamp, not the table. He's not happy. After the match he and Shibaev have a confrontation.

Devastate the One Wing Looper
Here's the new coaching article from Samson Dubina.

Tom's Table Tennis Newsletter
Here's the new issue, which includes links to numerous coaching articles, including one of mine.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 18 (1990-1991)
Here's chapter 20! Or order your own print copies at TimBogganTableTennis.com.

Samsonov Promotes India Open with Ball Bouncing
Here's the video (18 sec) as he bounces the ball off the bottom of the handle of his racket and then invites you to come to the tournament.

Tom Brady and Table Tennis
Google "Tom Brady table tennis," and read all the articles about the Tom Brady - Danny Amendola table tennis feud from last June! It seems to have started with this article and video interview (1:58), where Amendola, one of Brady's "trusted wide receivers," talks about Brady having a meltdown after losing to him at ping-pong. (The follow-up article are about Brady's demands for a rematch.) Here's the pertinent quote from Amendola:

"He’s the best teammate. He’s so competitive and what not. I remember one story, it was my first week in the building, he wanted to play some ping ping. I didn’t really know how to go about it. I know I was better than him, I didn’t want to beat him too bad, because I wanted him to throw me the ball."

"I knew I was better. Needless to say, his competitive nature unleashed a broken paddle by the end of it. It the reason why we love him, and the reason why he’s the best quarterback."

For the record, in the Super Bowl Danny Amendola caught eight passes for 78 yards, one touchdown, and a two-point conversion.

Pizza Hut Super Bowl Commercial 2017 George Takei Oh My
Here's the Super Bowl Commercial (45 sec), where table tennis takes place twice! At 18 sec and 38 sec. Technically speaking, isn't this the greatest showing of table tennis in history, with over 110 million Americans and until numbers worldwide watching this table tennis extravaganza, with football mixed in?

Comedian Frank Caliendo Loses 60 Pounds from Ping-Pong and Does Trump Impression
Here's the part where he says, "I've lost like 60 pounds," and in response to the question of how, says, "Running and ping-pong." He then talks about table tennis for about 20 seconds. (I once played doubles with him!)

Not USUALLY a Contact Sport
Here's the video (10 sec) as Adam Bobrow smashes and his opponent (Kai?) runs into camera!

Shoe Pong?
Here's the video (1:36) as Adam Bobrow's opponent (Kai?) removes his shoe about 20 seconds in and begins to play with it - with a unique twist near the end!

Around-the-Table Pot Pong
Here's the video (16 sec) as five players circle an improvised table, rallying with pots!

Send us your own coaching news!

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