Butterfly Online


Larry Hodges' daily blog will go up Mon-Fri by noon USA Eastern time (usually by 10 AM, a little later on Mondays when he does a Tip of the Week).
Larry is a member of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame, a USATT Certified National Coach, a professional coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (USA), and author of six books and over 1300 articles on table tennis. Here is his bio

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

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

November 25, 2014

USATT Election

Below is Part 2 of my series of blogs about my plans if elected to the USATT Board. Here is my Election Page, and here's the USATT Election Notice. Here's my blogging schedule:

  1. Monday, November 24: Create a Nationwide System of Regional Team Leagues
  2. Tuesday, November 25: Create State Associations
  3. Wednesday, November 26: Create a USATT Coaching Academy to Recruit and Train Professional Coaches
  4. Monday, December 1: Turn U.S. Open and Nationals into Premier Events
  5. Tuesday December 2: Create a Professional Players Association, and Professionalize the Sport
  6. Wednesday, December 3: Other Issues (Balloting opens on this day, and continues until Dec. 27.)

Create State Associations
=>The Goal: Dramatically increase membership by organizing on the local level.
The country is too big to have everything run by one centralized group. We should model this on tennis or the regional table tennis associations all over Europe.

Some states already have state associations, and if so, that's great - we don't have to do anything other than offer support. (Some very large states may have two or more associations, such as California.) But most don't, and most current ones aren't very active - we need to work with those ones to organize at a higher level. We need truly active state associations that can truly run table tennis in their state or region. I was involved in tennis leagues and saw how effectively a volunteer-run state association can operate. (This doesn't mean it's all volunteer - there are also full-timers involved. We need to find the right mix.)

So how do we go about doing this? We start by recruiting USA state directors all over the U.S. to set up state associations. At the start they would be appointed, but once an association is successful and can run on its own, there can be elections. Each association would need Coaching, League, Tournament, and Club Directors. (In smaller states, they might be combined, at least at first.) USATT would supply the basic prototype bylaws for these state associations, which they could then modify where needed. (I already wrote these prototype bylaws during a previous aborted attempt by USATT to establish regional associations - they are sitting on my computer. I'd like to run them by others at some point before finalizing them.)

Who would organize this? I'm quite willing to let the USATT staff do this, but if they are too busy, and nobody truly qualified wants to do it, I'm quite willing to take it on. Some will accuse me of trying to be in charge of too much, but someone has to do this, and I've got the energy and the vision to do this. But I'm quite willing to let someone else take charge if we can find the right person. I want to make this happen, and so someone has to make it happen.

What should a State Association be responsible for? They would:

  • Generally oversee table tennis activities in their state or region
  • Oversee the regional team league among clubs in their state or region (see yesterday's blog)
  • Arrange tournaments (open and closed)
  • Help to bring in coaches for their clubs
  • Help to organize junior training programs
  • Organize training centers in their state. Every state should have these. (I'll blog about this tomorrow.)
  • Find people to open clubs in the cities in their state that don't have clubs, starting with the more populated ones

I envision a time where, like many countries in Europe, players would join state associations rather than the national governing body (USATT) - but in joining that state association would automatically become a USATT member. USATT would get a percentage of the membership dues (as they do overseas), and in return would offer the league, league ratings, tournament ratings, and numerous other types of support (such as manuals and expertise in running various programs). Not all of these state associations will be successful, at least at the start. But if a few are, then that's a state that can take off and lead the country.

Washington Post Interview and Other Work

On Sunday I was interviewed at my club (MDTTC) by the Washington Post for an upcoming feature on Table Tennis and Health. Also interviewed was Navin Kumar, a student of mine who has both Parkinson's and a mechanical heart. We discussed the various health benefits of table tennis, and the sport in general.

It's been a busy few days. I'm actively campaigning in the USATT election, as well as doing my usual coaching and promotional work. Yesterday I finalized the USATT Hall of Fame Program booklet for the Hall of Fame Banquet at this year's Nationals. (This is the sixth year in a row I've done that.) I finalized the Amazon version of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. 15. (There were some technical issues that had to be worked out.) I began work on the MDTTC December Newsletter. I spent a bunch of time discussing (in person and via email) with Michael and Stefano a planned "Capital Area Table Tennis LEague" ("CATTLE"!). I also spent time studying the LA Table Tennis League Rules (and their How to Participate and other pages), which could be a model both for "CATTLE" and perhaps for the regional team leagues I proposed in yesterday's blog. We may already have our prototype in place! We just need to turn it into something that can be packaged for other states and regions.

5-Star North American Tour Finals

Here's the USATT article. "The Grand Final will take place Feb. 7-8, 2015, at the Westchester Table Tennis Center, in Pleasantville, NY. It will feature the top 16 finishers from the 2014 Tour."

Actions of the USATT High Performance Committee

Below are their meeting minutes, by Chair Carl Danner. I've had some disagreements with them, but overall I'm quite pleased with this committee's recent work, and look forward to working with them if I'm on the board.

2015 USATT Direct Athlete Support Program

Here's the program. "In order to assist our top athletes to remain committed to the sport of table tennis and to assist them with everyday living and training expenses, USATT has created a program for direct athlete support that includes but may not be limited to the following expenses:" It also says, "The criteria for investing resources in the athletes will be based mainly on the following criteria:

  • Olympic medal potential
  • Current commitment to table tennis
  • Other criteria may be taken into consideration by USATT, including financial need.

USATT Criteria and Procedures for Entering US Athletes in International Competitions

Here's the USATT article. I'm pleased they have taken action on this as there was a problem with this earlier this year. I like it when I see people actually taking action to solve problems rather than just letting it go.

Footwork for Defenders

Here's the video (4:12) from PingSkills.

Practicing the Banana Flip Alone

Here's the video (2:39).

Ask the Coach

Episode 34 (12:46) - Pure Backspin

  • PingSkillers Question of the Day - 0:19: Who is the best player in the World at the moment? Men's and Women's.
  • Question 1 - 1:51: How could I achieve pure heavy back spin serve with Pendulum motion and no side spin on it? So as soon as the opponent touches the ball it goes straight into net. Salman
  • Question 2 - 5:26: I've just bought a new rubber and realised that i have glue but out of sponge to apply it to my rubber. I thought that regular sponge can be used as an alternative but it will just soak the glue. Is there any other method to apply the glue. Utkarsh
  • Question 3 - 7:00: Can you please tell what and how should a defender practice? Rutvik Thakkar
  • Question 4 - 9:56: I'm a pretty advanced player but I'm looking to maximise spin when I chop but it usually either goes well up into the air or lands in the net. Any advice for this? Joshua Griffiths

Devices for Remote Meetings - for League Directors?

Here's a possible device for remote meetings. (Note that when he refers to "Larry's Nov. 24th Project," He's talking about my blog on November 24 - yesterday - where I wrote about creating a nationwide system of regional team leagues.)

As a fervent reader and supporter of Larry’s BLOG, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Jules Apatini, the creator of www.aerobicpingpong.com located here in the US. 

I am originally from Hungary, and as such - have been lifelong and serous Ping Pong/Table Tennis player, supporter, and enthusiast since childhood. In Larry’s Nov. 24th Project, I couldn’t help but see an incredible opportunity to give this Olympic Sport a huge boost in this country (the US Ping Pong Table Tennis World).

I have had a long time dream to jumpstart and promote the awareness of the benefits of Ping Pong and Table Tennis in this country, but this requires a leadership team of passionate visionaries, in order to be successful. In Hungary, and in fact all other countries outside the US, this is how Ping Pong and Table Tennis has evolved to how it is as popular as it is today. There is a need to get the right people organized and involved here in the US. I AM one of those who would and is dedicated to this success.

For all of you who are” in it to win it”, I have information on a groundbreaking and leading-edge,  new smart media video device which can be jointly purchased and used to hold online/remote meetings with those of you who will be involved with LARRY’s Project. The information for this device may be accessed through one of my sites, http://www.smartvideodevices.com, and may also be purchased through my official Amazon affiliate link provided to me by Amazon. There will be more to come in the near future about www.aerobicpingpong.com. Thank you for reading and possibly becoming a more active member of Larry’s wonderful project who may just be able to use this new technology for a variety of purposes and personal benefit.

Best Regards,

Jules Apatini

New Paddles for You!

Seriously - anyone know where I can buy these?

Ping Pong Balls are Incredibly Flammable!

Here's the video (2:09) of a mass of celluloids burning. (I linked to video comparisons of celluloid vs. polyball yesterday, but this was too spectacular not to show.)

NBA Legend John Salley and Table Tennis Legend Kim Gilbert

Here's the picture! "NBA Legend John Salley stopped by to tell me he just bought a ping pong table for his daughter, she wants to become a champion! Game on!!"

The Table Tennis Board and Dining Room Table

Here's the picture!

Liberace Table Tennis Shirt

Here it is!

That's Why We Don't Jump the Net in Table Tennis

Here's the cartoon!

Epic London Underground Ping Pong Battle

Here's the hilarious video (62 sec)!


Send us your own coaching news!

November 24, 2014

Tip of the Week

Pre-Serve Routine - a 1-2-3 Approach.

USATT Election

Below is Part 1 of my series of blogs about my plans if elected to the USATT Board. Here is my Election Page, and here's the USATT Election Notice. Here's my blogging schedule:

  1. Monday, November 24: Create a Nationwide System of Regional Team Leagues
  2. Tuesday, November 25: Create State Associations
  3. Wednesday, November 26: Create a USATT Coaching Academy to Recruit and Train Professional Coaches
  4. Monday, December 1: Turn U.S. Open and Nationals into Premier Events
  5. Tuesday December 2: Create a Professional Players Association, and Professionalize the Sport
  6. Wednesday, December 3: Other Issues (Balloting opens on this day, and continues until Dec. 27.)

Create a Nationwide System of Regional Team Leagues

=>The Goal: Dramatically increase USATT membership.

We need to create a prototype regional team league that can spread nationwide. Right now anyone wanting to create such a league has to start from scratch. We need to study how the German leagues (700,000 members, overwhelmingly league members), and others were created and grew, and how other USA sports developed in this way, such as tennis (700,000 members, overwhelmingly league members) and bowling (over two million, overwhelmingly league members). Then design and create a USA league system for table tennis. (When I say "overwhelmingly," I mean 95-99%.) Countries all over Europe have league memberships in the hundreds of thousands, and Asian countries have even more. Their situation is often different than here in the U.S., which is why we study what they and other sports do successfully, and then design a system for USA Table Tennis.  

One thing that's almost foreign to U.S. players is the idea of a team league. Most U.S. leagues are singles. That's fine for a club league, but if you want it to spread and get huge numbers, you need team leagues, where players represent their club in various divisions, based on level. This is how it's done not only in successful table tennis countries, but nearly all other successful sports, as noted above. I've even played in tennis leagues - I was part of a six-man league - and it was all run by volunteers. And that's how they got 700,000 members. (A key is to have regional team leagues where everyone in the league is in easy driving distance. In general leagues should cover an area no more than perhaps an hour drive across, preferably less.) A typical league would have multiple divisions, from beginning to elite.

Keep in mind that tennis having more members than table tennis, as it does in the U.S., is not the norm - we have to get away from that type of thinking, which has been indoctrinated into us along with an inferiority complex to tennis and other sports. All over Europe table tennis memberships are higher than tennis - though both table tennis and tennis memberships there dwarf USA Table Tennis membership. Table Tennis is often called the #2 participation sport in the world, and some surveys show this, but whether we're actually #2 or merely #3, we're near the top of the list, along with soccer, basketball, and volleyball. (Here's a typical listing, which has us at #3.) The Sporting Good Manufacturing Association polls show there are about 19.5 million recreational players in the U.S. - players who aren't interested in competing in tournaments, but might be interested in a recreational league where they get to play on a team with their friends and other players their level. For them, it's not an out-for-blood competitive thing, but a social gathering with their peers, where their friends root for them when they play.

There already are some rather successful leagues in the U.S., such as the LA League and leagues in the Bay Area, with hundreds of players playing in different divisions, based on level. However, we need to take them to the next level, so that we measure membership in the thousands, tens of thousands, and (nationally) in the hundreds of thousands. We need to find what's needed to turn them into regional leagues that can be copied in other regions and spread all over the country. (Right now if someone wants to do such a league, there is no model - he has to invent it from scratch.) We might start in one region, and test out a proto-type league. Once we find the right proto-type, we publicize it and work to make it spread. A big part of this might come through organizing State Associations - which I'll blog about tomorrow. In other regions, a group might organize strictly around the league. (For example, there could be a "Capital Area Table Tennis League" in my region.) While initial organizing and promoting will have to come from the top, the rest is done regionally, mostly by volunteers.

Leagues would likely be rated. However, I don't think they should use the USATT tournament ratings - too many players are protective of these ratings, and might not want to put them on the line week after week. Instead, they would likely use the USATT League Ratings, which currently process about 6700 league matches every month in leagues around the country, and have to date processed 486,946 matches in 416 leagues. (Disclosure: I co-founded the USATT League Rating System in 2003 with Robert Mayer.) 

Here is a rough step-by-step procedure for developing this proto-type league. (Note - I made a few adjustments after my initial posting.) 

  1. Step One is to put together a task force to study how successful table tennis leagues began overseas, other successful sports leagues in the U.S., and successful USA table tennis leagues.
  2. Step Two is to get the task force and successful USA league directors in a room together, lock the door, and don't let them out until they have designed a prototype USA regional league system, a model that can be used by anyone interested in setting up a league, flexible enough to adjust to different situations, that can spread all over the country, region by region. 
  3. Step Three is to test the proto-type in a regional league. Once we find one that works, we write down the procedures, rules, guidelines, etc., so others can copy them. 
  4. Step Four (though this should start earlier) is to convince USATT leaders that league memberships need to be a core issue for them, as it is for successful table tennis associations overseas, leading to membership in the hundreds of thousands in countries all over Europe. There's no reason why the U.S. can't match or top them. Then we use the resources of USATT to promote and develop these regional team leagues. As league memberships grow, revenue grows, and the bulk of that money needs to go back into developing and promoting the league.

Creating such leagues is an obvious thing to do, but it won't be easy. But if wanted to do easy stuff, we'd be playing Parcheesi. Eventually we'll look back and wonder what we were thinking, putting off creating such leagues for so long when they are the well-beaten path to huge memberships, as shown by table tennis overseas and other USA sports. It might take years, but it'll happen if we make it happen, just as it did for so many others. Table tennis membership all over Europe are counted in the hundreds of thousands - so should we.

Some people I have in mind to help with this - and I haven't actually told them yet, so when they read this they may be caught off guard! - include Bruce Liu, Adam Bobrow, Will Shortz, Mauricio Vergara, Mike Levene, and Stefano Ratti - with apologies to others. If you are involved or have experience in team leagues - especially the large ones overseas - and would like to help out, contact me.

Coaching News

Yesterday was a banner day for me and one of my students, 7-year-old Adrian. After months of practice, everything clicked yesterday, and suddenly he's racing around looping everything - and he's pretty consistent! In live drills, he's able to loop over and over to my block, usually getting ten in a row at a time, with good power. He's also spinning his backhands off the bounce. Besides live drills we did a lot of the 2-1 drill (backhand from backhand side, forehand from backhand side, forehand from forehand side, repeat), looping everything from both sides, and he can do it nearly flawlessly now. And while adults struggle to keep up a fast pace, he keeps yelling, "Faster! Faster!" I kept speeding it up, and he kept up the pace - but it was funny how he'd go from all-out Tanzanian Devil speed to completely tuckered out in seconds when he reached his limit. Then I'd pick up the balls while he drank water and caught his breath. (In drills where I don't exhaust like this he helps with ball pickup.)

There are three reasons for his "sudden" success. I put "sudden" in quotes because it's the culmination of many months of training - sudden improvement doesn't really come suddenly, though the result might happen suddenly.

First, I shortened his swing. He has a tendency to take too long a backswing, which costs him control. Shortening it also made it easier for him to use his whole body - he wasn't always using his left side. A lot of shadow practice helped with this.

Second, I had him stay close to the table to loop the first ball (my topspin serve), and then take a half step back for the rest of the rally. Often he'd get jammed on the second ball. Other times, because he was getting jammed, he'd go back way too far and loop from off the floor. Now he's found the right balance.

Third, and here's the "controversial" one - some won't like this - but he's now using Butterfly Tenergy on both sides of his racket (05 on forehand, 25 on backhand, like I have), on a Timo Boll ALC racket (also what I use). A seven-year-old using superfast sponge and rackets? Sponge that costs about $70/sheet (the most expensive type) and a $136 racket? As I've blogged before, the paradigm on this has changed. If a kid is training regularly with a coach and has the fundamentals down, then using cheaper sponge can only hold him back. Adrian wouldn't be running around looping like Zhang Jike if he were using cheaper equipment, and so he's learning to play like Zhang Jike well before he would otherwise.

Pendulum Serve - Like a Boss!

Here's the video (2:50) from Brett Clarke, who teaches it in his usual entertaining way. As noted in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Towels, "A towel is the most important item a hitchhiker can carry."

Backhand Block

Here's the new coaching video (5:06) from PingSkills.

Ask the Coach

Episode 33 (13:46) - Blocking Sidespin Topspins

  • PingSkillers Question of the Day - 0:27: Jun Mizutani heads the standings for the World Tour Grand Finals and won the title in 2010. But can he win the title again?
  • Question 1 - 2:14: I can't return hook and fade sidespin topspins effectively. Please tell me an effective way to return them. Kaustubh
  • Question 2 - 5:45: Hello. What is the difference between forehand loop and forehand drive? When is the appropriate time to use each one? What is the hand movement like? Karan Sagar
  • Question 3 - 9:28: I am wondering what main differences are with the backspin reverse pendulum serve and a standard backspin pendulum serve. Which is easier for almost everyone to do? Stanley Wong
  • Question 4 - 11:56: Is it right that different types of top sheets tacky & non-tacky, have a different type of protection? Can you give some explanations? Ernest Wahyu

Table Tennis Ball Flammability

Here's a video (9:09) from Jay Turberville that shows the relative flammability of four table tennis balls: a standard celluloid, and three of the new plastic balls - the Nittaku Sha, the Ipong seamless polyball (presumably from XuShaoFu), and a Nittaku Premium. One thing I'd like to see is a celluloid and one of the new poly balls lit on fire side by side. Whoever does that first, I'll post it.

First Battle of the Paddles a Big Success

Here's the USATT article on this fund-raiser for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Stanislaus County (of Central Valley, California).

Fox News Picks Up Violent Table Tennis Kid Video

I reported on this on Friday. Here's the video from Fox News (1:21). As I noted on Friday, sometimes it seems the only way table tennis gets attention is when someone acts up, such as this or when Zhang Jike destroyed the barriers after winning the World Cup.

Table Tennis and the 2024 Olympics in Washington DC

Here's an article in yesterday's Washington Post (Metro Section, page 1) about the local strategy for bringing the 2024 Olympics to Washington DC. Here's the third sentence: "Badminton and table tennis players battling it out in convention space at National Harbor in Prince Georges County." (Yes, an incomplete sentence, but it's in sort of a list of where various sports would play.)

Four-Year-Old Coaching Two-Year-Old

Here's the video (55 sec), care of father Samson Dubina. And here's video (5:40) of Samson coaching the four-year-old as she sits on the table.

Dining Room Pong

Here's the video (64 sec) of this improvised game.

John McEnroe Plays Table Tennis

Here's the video (15 sec), where he plays and throws his paddle.  

Imaginary Commentating

Here's video (56 sec) of Adam Bobrow doing some imaginary (lip reading?) commentary for a table tennis match. As he explains, "Before I was commentating for ITTF... this happened... and the video recently popped up. I was having some fun at the NCTTA nationals. I could never get away with this now!... or could I?"

Forrest Gump iPhone Pong

Here's the repeating gif image of he and his opponent on facing iPhones!

Ping Pong Polly

Here's a vintage table tennis cartoon circa 1940s/1950s. And the original is on sale for $24.99!

Astronaut Pong

Here's the picture! So what would it be like playing table tennis on the moon, other planets, or in outer space? See my blog from Oct. 24, 2012! And, as I showed once before, they already played table tennis on the moon.


Send us your own coaching news!

November 21, 2014

USATT Election

Sometime today USATT will announce the ballot for the upcoming USATT election. It'll likely be a USATT news item. (I'll add a "Breaking News!" item here when it comes out.) As I've blogged about, I applied to be on the ballot. If I'm on the ballot, then I'll create a "USATT Election" tab here, and start to blog about what I'll do as a USATT board member. I'll also put online the one-page statement I sent to USATT outlining why I want to run for the board, what I will do, and my qualifications. (When I say "what I will do," that also means I will work to get USATT to do it, so it'll become "we.") As I blogged on October 23, there are five major things I will do if I'm on the board, plus a growing number of "other issues" (currently at twelve) that I'd also like to take action on. (I blogged about these twelve on November 14.) Then I'll blog about each of the five issues, one per day, outlining the plans for each, and then blog about the other issues on the sixth day. And on the seventh day, I'll . . . play table tennis.

BREAKING NEWS: I'm on the ballot! See my new USATT Election tab in the menu on the left.

Violence in Table Tennis

Here's the video (54 sec). I was rather hesitant to put this one up as the one doing the violence - shoving the umpire off his chair - is a kid. But the video is everywhere now, and it was in a very public tournament. It's gone viral, with 681,273 hits as of right now. If you'll note there's a red and yellow card on the scoreboard, meaning the kid had already been yellow-carded and then penalized a point. Apparently the only way table tennis can get huge publicity is with incidents like this, or the one last month when Zhang Jike destroyed the barriers after winning the World Cup! (I'm saying this facetiously - but unfortunately there's some truth to it.)

Over the years there have been other such incidents involving kids, though not all violent. Here are a few.

  1. Back in the 1990s a kid from Canada (about twelve) was up match point and lost, and threw his racket at the barriers - and threw it too high so it went over and hit another kid in the eye, almost knocking his eye out. The injured kid (about eight) was rushed to the hospital and they said almost lost the eye, while the throwing kid got suspended I think two years, and his parents had to pay the medical bills.
  2. Probably the worst case of table tennis violence I know of was the reverse - a parent beating his kid. A player I was coaching in the final of Under 14 Boys at the U.S. Open was down 18-20 match point, but scored four in a row to win the match. A few minutes later, while I was talking to the winner, several other kids from my club came running over, yelling that the opponent's father was beating up his kid. I went out and found the 13-year-old sitting on the ground outside, leaning against a brick wall. According to witnesses his father had thrown him against the brick wall over and over. (Yes, authorities were notified, but I don't know what happened - but a year or so later the kid was no longer living with his father.)
  3. A kid I was coaching in a tournament was at 19-all in the third (back when games were to 21). The opponent got a net-edge to go up 20-19 match point - and the kid gave him the finger! I immediately ordered the kid to default the match. He didn't even protest, he knew his mistake, and never did anything like that again.
  4. If I got into all the problems with kids "choing!" between points that would be the topic for every blog over the next year.
  5. I was involved in one case of table tennis violence, where I could have been knifed. Back in 1977 when I was 17 I was practicing with Brian Masters at the Prince Georges Plaza Community Center, where there were two tables. I left the room to use the water fountain. When I returned there was a big argument going on at the next table, but I didn't pay much attention. Then one guy, about my age and size, accused me of breaking his racket. I didn't know what he was talking about, and I definitely hadn't broken his racket, or even touched it - I had been busy doing footwork drills. As I'd find out later, someone else had told him I'd done it, probably the person who had broken his. A while later I left to go home - it was late at night and dark outside. As I stepped out, the guy who'd accused me of breaking his racket literally jumped out from behind a tree or bush, where he'd been waiting for me - with a knife!!! I was cornered between him and a wall. Fortunately, I'd actually practiced some self-defense against a knife (well, a rubber knife) with my older brother. When he came at me, I did a little maneuver where I slapped his knife arm aside with my left (we were both right-handed), spun about so I got the knife arm under my right arm below the shoulder, and yanked away at it until he dropped the knife. (I may have broken his arm, and I pretty much yanked his arm out of the socket.) Some people from inside came running out and helped hold the guy while the police were called. I never told my parents because I was afraid they wouldn't let me keep practicing there.

Reverse Pendulum Backspin Serve Part 2

Here's the video (5:26) by Brett Clarke. Here was Part 1 (5:37), which I linked to a while back. Many players can only do this serve with sidespin and topspin, and in combination with a regular pendulum serve, that's a good variation. But when you can do it with backspin - which is harder to learn - it becomes a front-line serve. I like to use a regular pendulum serve motion and at the last second switch to reverse pendulum, usually either short to the forehand or long to the backhand.

What Are Your Pushing Leaks?

Here's the coaching article from Expert Table Tennis. Is the lowly push the most important stroke of all? And what is a "leak"?

Ask the Coach

Episode 32 (15:11) - What Should You Serve After a Let?

  • PingSkillers Question of the Day - 0:21: Should the ITTF bring in a time limit between points?
  • Question 1 - 3:06: What is the difference between pimple in and out rubber? I had heard about long pimple rubbers which are for chopping and defending can there be long pimple rubber which has its pimple in? I am going to change from pimple in rubber to pimple out. Nick
  • Question 2 - 5:22: I have this problem because I want to get my arm to my eyebrow for the forehand topspin so then my strokes are too vertical. I was told to shoot through the ball but I'm unable to stop myself from playing vertically. How can I hit through and not up? C Cc
  • Question 3 - 7:10: I try and do a forehand topspin but it keeps on hitting the net help? Kian
  • Question 4 - 8:31: As a lefty I've seen you hit a forehand and forehand smash with a curve to the right side of the table. Can you do a curve (screwball) to the left side with a forehand? What about a backhand smash screwball? Rex
  • Question 5 - 10:28: When I make a let serve touching the net, should I make the same serve again or make another serve? Kaustubh
  • Question 6 - 13:43: What do you think of the plastic ball is it better than the original? Kian

No Chinese Players in the 2014 World Tour Grand Finals

Here's the article from Tabletennista. Here's discussion on this at the Mytabletennis forum.

Central American and Caribbean Sports Games

Here's the ITTF article, which features Michael Hyatt, Oscar Molina, Guillermo Munoz, and Dexter St. Louis.

Pongathon Uni Challenge: Free Ping Pong Parties Sweeping the Nation!

Here's the video (1:50) from England. Why don't we have this in the U.S.? (Of course me, being the ultimate non-partier, would probably plan and set it up, and then stay home and read a book.)

Fan Zhendong Backhand

Here's the video (40 sec).

Incredible Rally

Here's the video (33 sec, including slow motion replay) of the point between Ma Long and Xu Xin.

Four-Year-Old Player

Here's the video (52 sec) - she's pretty good for someone whose shoulders barely reach the table!

Turkey Pong

Here it is - I like this one, and it's not too late to get one for Thanksgiving! (I vacillated between the current title and calling it "Turkey Tong" about ten times.)

Jorgen Persson on a Milk Carton

Here's the picture of the Swedish star and 1991 World Men's Singles Champion.

The New Plastic Ball

This new one is gonna slow down the sport a bit.

Early Egyptian Table Tennis

Here's the cartoon!


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November 20, 2014

New Ball Prices are "Extortionate," Relative Costs, and a Poly/Celluloid Ball Comparison

Here's the article by Matt Hetherington. I too am a bit struck by how expensive they are. So I did a little research. The new Nittaku Premium 40+ poly ball (that's a mouthful) retail price is going to be $33.95/dozen, or $2.83/ball. (Maybe they are charging by the word? They are currently on sale for $25.95, but only for those entered in the USA Nationals, limit one dozen balls per player due to limited quantities available.) The Nittaku Sha 40+ poly ball costs $24.95/dozen, or $2.08/ball. Meanwhile, the regular celluloid Nittakus cost $17.95/dozen, or $1.50/ball. The Nittaku Premium ball costs $25.95/dozen, or $2.16/ball. The prices of the celluloid balls have been rising steadily for years, and now they cost more than tennis balls. (I'm using prices per dozen. When bought in smaller quantities, such as 3-packs, they cost more, and will likely be over $3/ball, as noted in Matt's article.)

Let's re-iterate:

  • Nittaku Premium 40+ poly ball: $2.83/ball
  • Nittaku Sha 40+ poly ball: $2.08/ball
  • Celluloid Nittaku premium: $2.16/ball
  • Celluloid Nittaku: $1.50/ball

Now the Sha 40+ ball can barely be listed here as a usable ball - here are the reviews for it. It's about as popular as playing table tennis in a hurricane. On the other hand, the Premium 40+ ball gets great reviews. So when comparing usable balls, we have to use the Premium 40+ for comparison - the ball that's going to be used at the upcoming USA Nationals. And we are going to be paying nearly twice as much for it. Is it worth it?

The price of the Premium ball, as they go from celluloid to plastic (i.e. 40+ poly ball) is going from $2.16/ball to $2.83/ball. And yet, since the regular Nittaku gets pretty much the same great reviews as the Premium, I see the price as going from $1.50/ball for the cheapest usable celluloid ball to $2.83/ball for the cheapest usable plastic ball. (I'm not counting training balls, which typically cost about 50 cents/ball if you buy a gross or so at a time, and cheaper for sponsored clubs.)

The argument for it is that the celluloid balls were having insurance and shipping problems because of their flammability. Is it enough to justify nearly doubling the price? (See Matt's opinion on this.) I'll let readers decide. I'm guessing U.S. distributors are getting charged extra for the new balls, and are mostly just passing the price increases on to us. But I really don't know.

But here's an interesting comparison. You can buy a Penn 3-pak of tennis balls at Walmart for $2.53, or $0.84/ball. (And note that it gets great reviews.) Yes, that's 84 cents per tennis ball, or less than one-third the cost of a Premium 40+ Nittaku. There are more expensive tennis balls, but Penn balls are probably the best-selling tennis ball. (The "regular" rate is $4.96 - $1.65/ball - but they are almost perpetually on sale.) Of course, tennis has the advantage of huge sales, and so perhaps they can get away with cheaper prices.

So the question is whether a table tennis ball should cost two to three times as much as a tennis ball? Here's the equation! (The relative sizes are correct.)

On a related note, the last two nights I've been training players using the JOOLA Super-P 40+ poly balls, the ball that'll be used at the North American Teams next week. (I guess we have to get used to these much longer names.) Yesterday, for the first time, I went from coaching someone with the poly balls to coaching someone with regular celluloid balls. After two days using the poly balls, the celluloid ones literally hopped! They are slightly smaller and weigh less, and seemed to jump. It took me a while to adjust to the added pace. So I'll say this - if one goal of the new poly balls was to slow down the game and make it easier to rally, I think that might be true. Once you get used to them, it's easier to keep the ball in play with the heavier ball, at least if you use a quality poly ball, such as the Nittaku Premium 40+.

Today the big shipment of Nittaku Premium 40+ balls will arrive at MDTTC. (According to the online tracker, it's already out for delivery.) Starting today we'll have players training with five different balls, all desperately trying to keep them separate! I can't wait until this is all standardized.

  • Butterfly celluloid training balls for "normal" training. (We'll make the complete switch to plastic after affordable plastic training balls become available, presumably early next year.)
  • Butterfly 40+ poly balls (for Crystal Wang, who is training for the World Junior Championships next week)
  • Nittaku 40+ Sha balls (for those who got large quantities of them to prepare for the poly ball era)
  • Nittaku 40+ Premium poly balls (to train for the Nationals)
  • JOOLA Super-P 40+ poly balls (to train for the North American Teams)

Is Search Engine Showing Up Now?

A few weeks ago I posted a note asking if the search engine was showing up for you in the top left. It should read, "Search this site:" with a field underneath it. It wasn't showing up on many people's computers, or if you weren't logged in, but I think it's fixed now. Could readers verify whether they can (or can't see) see it? If you can't, let me know if you were logged in, and what browser you are using. (You can comment below or email me directly.) Thanks!
=>NOTE - Reports are coming in all over that the search engine is working great, so at this point only let me know if it's not working. Appreciated!

Fan Zhendong - Chinese Attacking Technique - Side Displacement

Here's video (34 sec, including slow motion replays) of Fan twice stepping way over to his backhand side to rip forehand winners down the line. (Also get a good look at Fan's serve in the second sequence. Why don't you serve like that?)

Ask the Coach

Episode #31 - Return Boards

  • PingSkillers Question of the Day - 0:24: Should pimple and anti-spin rubber be banned?
  • Question 1 - 2:40: I´ve read your answers regarding durability of rubbers and they’re focused on the surface layer. What about the sponge? Could I assume that the sponge is still ok if the surface is not worn out? Thomas Kunzfeld
  • Question 2 - 4:32: When I'm receiving a serve in forehand I'm unable to return it. When I chop or cut the ball it goes out of the table or in the net, it may be any serve where you need to brush the ball underneath. Siddharth Shah
  • Question 3 - 7:06: I consider myself as beginner. I played with simple bats up till now. I want to develop my game. What is your suggestion, Touch or Rook? A T
  • Question 4 - 8:21: I got a Wally Rebounder recently, and it's a lot of fun, but I'm wondering if it will actually help you improve your game? I know that it's always better to have a training partner, but I really don't have that luxury. Gary McAdams

College Players - Does Your NCTTA Rating Need to Be Re-Adjusted?

Here's where to go!

Table Tennis for You

Here's the video (30 sec) from Butterfly showing some aspects of table tennis.

Robots Playing Table Tennis

Here's repeating animated image of two robots playing table tennis as spectators (and you) watch the ball go back and forth . . . back and forth . . . back and forth. . . .

Prison Pong

Here's the picture! Is this real? How does the ball make it through the bars? "TT player is put in jail for not being able to pay $45,000 fine by the ITTF, so decides to play the jailer for the money with a wobbly plastic ball."


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November 19, 2014

JOOLAs and Nittakus and Butterflys, Oh My! - And Training for Teams and Nationals

Yesterday was another crazy day in the ongoing "Keep the balls separate" battle at MDTTC (and at other clubs around the U.S.). I had three students. The first two (more or less beginners) I trained with regular Butterfly celluloid training balls. The third was advanced and was getting ready for both the North American Teams in nine days and the U.S. Nationals a few weeks later. The Teams are using JOOLA 40+ poly balls, so I brought out the nine that I had. They play quite different from celluloid - heavier, harder to spin, etc. Since I only had nine, we couldn't do any serious multiball training (though we did a few "boxes" of them - yes, nine-ball multiball!). Meanwhile, the two tables adjacent were also using JOOLA 40+ poly balls. The next one was using Nittaku Sha 40+ poly balls (the closest thing they had to the Nittaku Premier 40+ poly balls that'll be used at the Nationals). The last table on this side had Crystal Wang preparing for the World Junior Championships in one week, and she was training with Butterfly 40+ poly balls, as that's what they'll be using. In the row of tables opposite us, they were all using regular Butterfly celluloid balls.

So there was this ongoing struggle to keep all these balls separate. These balls all play a bit different, though sometimes the differences are subtle. It gets crazy sometimes as we sift through balls, trying to pick up ours while tossing back any that are not, and watching players and coaches racing around to other courts to retrieve balls that left their court.

And it's only going to get worse. Tomorrow (Thursday) we have a shipment coming in of twelve dozen Nittaku Premier 40+ Poly balls. That'll give us five types of balls to worry about! (With the limited quantities, some will continue using the Sha ball, alas.) As I've blogged before, I think the ITTF jumped the gun on this, mandating poly balls before they were standardized and before there are inexpensive (but still quality) training balls available. Like most coaches in training centers all over the U.S., we train players with boxes of balls, both for multiball and so we don't spend much of our time retrieving balls. Now I'll be training players for the Teams with nine JOOLA 40+ poly balls (until they break - and they break much more quickly than celluloid) and for the Nationals with the twelve (the maximum allowed) Nittaku Premier 40+ poly balls. (With the latter we might be able to pool our balls, as most of the players going to the Nationals also ordered a dozen.)

Since players are getting used to a ball that plays differently, and because the Teams and Nationals are coming up - two of the main tournaments we train for - I'm not doing any major technical changes with most of my players until afterwards, instead focusing on techniques we've been working on. For example, I have one advanced junior (top five in the country in his age group) who tends to back off the table too much, both on the forehand and backhand, where he likes to loop from off the table. At the advanced levels these days you can't back up so easily, but trying to change this in the next nine days before the Teams will only mess him up, so we'll wait until after the Nationals. There are plenty of other things to focus on with him and others. I'm also going to focus a lot on serve, receive, and playing out points.

Kagin Lee's Blog

Here's his new blog on Team Ratings, Rankings, and Seedings. It starts off, "In most of the world, table tennis is a club sport and a team sport. The two go together, as club members form teams and play against teams from other clubs. The team aspect is not that strong in the US . . . yet." This is one of those things I've blogged about repeatedly - if we want to get large membership numbers, we need to focus on these team leagues, as they do in table tennis overseas and in other sports all over the U.S. and the world. If I'm on the USATT Board, perhaps I'll have an ally in Kagin as we work to set up a prototype regional league that can spread, leading to a nationwide system of regional leagues. This is the very obvious and well-trod path for successful sports. Is it really that obvious? Yes. Will it be easy? No. Can we get started on this soon? We'll see.

North American Tour and the New 5-Star

There's a new 5-star tournament in town! "Thanks to USATT, the Tournaments Advisory Committee, and Will Shortz, the 2014 North American Grand Final will be a 5-star tournament in addition to the US Open and the US Nationals." Here is the North American Tour home page. Here is the current leaderboard. The 5-star Final will be held Feb. 7-8 at the Westchester TTC in Pleasantville, NY.

Camera Angles Revisited

Yesterday I blogged (third segment) about how most camera angles in ITTF events are from the end-lines of the table rather than from the side, which is a more exciting angle. Jay Turberville points out that this is official ITTF policy. Here's the ITTF TV Guidelines. Pages 5-6 give the standard set-up - and it's from the end-lines. Someone emailed me the following: "Shahara has made comments in the past that the current TV angle is used because it prominently displays sponsors' logos.  It's logical and since table tennis is such a poor sport, I am sure 'outside the box' thinking hasn't been applied to this problem." Alas, it looks like we're stuck for now with these inferior camera angles, making it more difficult for a sport that needs to look good on TV if we want to be more TV.

International Table Tennis Skills DVD by Samson Dubina

Samson Dubina has a new video for sale, International Table Tennis Skills. "Samson shares 19 years of knowledge that he has learned from 40 different coaches while traveling to Europe, Asian, and throughout North America.  During the 2 hour 17 minute DVD, Samson explains each professional skill in a simple, step-by-step approach that you can be understood by all ages and all levels.  Topics include - advanced footwork, drills, strokes, serve, serve return, looping, flipping, game strategy, training routines, mental strategies, and much more.  DVD cost is $59.99 (Ohio residents add 7% sales tax).  Great Christmas Gift!!!"

Multi-ball Training

Here's some great multiball training (2:14). I think the drill is the coach randomly feeds either two or three balls to the forehand, then one to the backhand, then repeat. This is a good drill for intermediate and advanced players, though some might have to go a bit slower! (Correction: As pointed out by Slevin in the comments below, the coach is actually alternating three forehands, then two forehands, and so the drill isn't actually a random drill.)

Ask the Coach

Here's Episode #30 - Shattering Balls

  • PingSkillers Question of the Day - 0:44: Should you beat a weaker opponent 11-0 if you can?
  • Question 1 - 2:10: I am a lefty. Lately a righty has been serving down my forehand side and I automatically return to his backhand for which he kills me most of the time. I stand to the middle of the table on his service and find myself tripping over my feet. George Byron
  • Question 2 - 4:42: Can I attack a heavy backspin with a flat shot without topspin? Once I hit a backspin flat batted and it placed on the table more like a smash. But it doesn`t work on loose backspins. Can I hit that ball like that? Tharindu Dinethra
  • Question 3 - 6:35: Hi I was wondering if the glue you use makes a difference to the speed of the bat and if it affects the spin. Or are all glues the same? Shea Kiely
  • Question 4 - 7:41: During a match that I had, I made a smash and the ball broke during the impact, making me miss my shot. Would that be a let, or my opponent's point? Shawn

Tournament Preparation

Here's another training video (71 sec) from the Zhou Xin TT Academy. (We've got to start making videos at our club of our players in training!)

Vladimir Shapiro Interview

Here's the USATT article. I've had a couple of titanic battles with him - except I was coaching MDTTC juniors against him!

Doubles Soccer Volleyball Pong

Here's the video (3:32)!

Fitbit Commercial

Here's video (60 sec) of a sports ad for Fitbit (a sports watch) where they show people doing all sorts of sports and physical activities. There's a couple seconds of table tennis 17 seconds in.

Jan-Ove Waldner Exhibition

Here's video of Waldner (56 sec) as he carries on a conversation with his coach and sips a soft drink while lobbing. (He stole that from me!!! I used to do a similar routine with a candy bar as far back as 1980 - when I was 20 and he was only 15 - where I'd open and eat the candy bar, and finish by crunching up the wrapper, tossing it over my shoulder, and then counter-smashing!)

Face from a Thousand "Free Syria" Ping-Pong Balls

This is both funny and serious. Here is the cover of the Intelligent Optimist, Jan/Feb 2014, which is funny. He is also pictured holding two ping-pong balls in the table of contents, where it says, "Syrian Activist Ahmed Zaino's civil disobedience takes an unusual form. Thousands of ping pong balls." Here is the article on pages 76-80: "Syrian Activist Ahmed Zaino fights for the future of his country with ping pong balls and red paint. His creative, non-violent protests drive government forces mad and bring hope to his fellow Syrians." There is also a companion video (4:30).

Funny Cartoon?

Here's a hilarious table tennis cartoon - I think! - with elephants Yim and Yam playing table tennis. Can anyone translate? I think it's in Malay.

Table Tennis Wizardly War

Here's a table tennis battle (75 sec) that's absolute mayhem, fire, and destruction that could be right out of Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. (The serious action starts about 20 sec in.)


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November 18, 2014

PBS Video on MDTTC's "Ping-Pong Academy"

It seems a number of people who read my blog didn't see the recent PBS video that featured Crystal Wang, Derek Nie, and myself. Looking back, I realized it was the third item down, when it should have been at the top! So here it is again (4 min). (Note that we tried to get our other head coaches into it - Cheng Yinghua and Jack Huang - but they didn't feel confident in their English and asked me to do the talking.)

USATT Board and Committee Minutes, and NCTTA Reports

Here are links to the minutes to the October 7 USATT Board Meeting, and to three reports from the National College Table Tennis Association. Here are direct links to all four, plus to USATT and Committee Reports, all newly put up by USATT webmaster Sean O'Neill:

A Few Key Things in the USATT Minutes:

  • There was an attempt to allow USATT members to get on the ballot by petition (a good thing), but the actual motion was probably doomed from the start as it would have made things way too easy. (Plus a motion like that needs to have a second lined up in advance, and voters ready to vote for it.) The motion by Board Chair Mike Babuin was to amend the by-laws to state, ". . . all qualified candidates securing the 25 requisite number of signatures shall be placed on the election ballot." It didn't even get a second.
    Getting on the ballot with just 25 signatures is way too easy. As I've blogged about in the past, it used to be that anyone not placed on the ballot by the election committee could do so with 150 signatures - and every year potential candidates use to collect signatures at the U.S. or North American Teams. Getting only 25 is simply too low a threshold. My disappointment here is that there was no counter-proposal that would have required 150 or so signatures, and to require that the election dates be set so potential candidates could get these signatures during the Thanksgiving weekend holidays, when the North American and Butterfly Teams are held. If I'm on the USATT Board, I'll make this motion. I've discussed this with two board members, and I'm sure I can get the votes.
  • It says that "USOC funding was cut significantly this year relative to last year's funding." No reason is given and the amount cut is not given. Presumably they are looking into this.
  • The new CEO, Gordon Kaye, said that, "…his fundraising approach generally involves 'thinking outside the box.'" This is a good thing as we've spent most of the last 80+ years stuck inside a box. The last time USATT had a major money sponsor was in the late 1980s/early 1990s, care of Bob Tretheway and the Gee sisters. 
  • It says membership went up 2.7% this past year (up 231), and that the greatest increase was in the junior category. While the junior increase is probably due to new full-time training centers, I'd like to see more specific figures for these categories. Regardless, gaining 231 members in a year means we'll overtake USTA's 700,000 membership in about 2996 years, i.e. in the year 5010 AD. I'd like to hasten the process.
  • The number of USATT registered clubs dropped from 294 to 264. For perspective, when I was USATT Club Chair in 1990-91, the number of USATT registered clubs climbed from 226 to 301. Yes, we had more USATT clubs back in 1991! The increase back then came about from the Club Catalyst and Creation Program (where we targeted cities with populations over 50,000 and actively looked for people to open clubs there), and because the club affiliation fee was much lower back then.
    We now charge $75/year for club registration, when in fact we need them more than they need us. Of course we are losing them. I'd like to lower this to $50 or $60. We'd likely get back to around 300 clubs, but still come out slightly behind financially on this alone - but more affiliated clubs means more potential members can find them, leading to more USATT members, which should make up the difference. Remember, the whole idea is to increase membership. Often we focus on raising money, forgetting that that is a means to an end, i.e. developing the sport, which includes more clubs and more members.
  • Once again I ask the question: Where in the meeting was there anything devoted to growing the sport? That should be the main focus.

From the NCTTA Reports:

  • The NCTTA Report to the USATT Board of Directors says they "Had a handshake deal with [former USATT CEO] Mike Cavanaugh for all NCTTA clubs to automatically become USATT." I'd like to get back to this. It also says, "There is still minimal connection between NCTTA and USATT." This should increase, though it must be emphasized that this does not mean USATT gets any sort of control over NCTTA; it means they should be finding ways to mutually grow.
  • The NCTTA Annual Report shows they have had steady growth. I think the two most important takeaways from their growth that USATT should learn is 1) they are league based, and 2) they are governed regionally.
  • From the NCTTA-NCAA Brief, I'm slightly taken aback that it says, "In order for a sport to become a full NCAA sport, it must successfully go through the 'emerging sports' process, also known as emerging sports for women. As the name may indicate, the primary criterion used to judge a potential new sport is its viability as a women's sport. There is no corresponding 'emerging sports for men'; inclusion of table tennis as an NCAA men’s sport is dependent on the development of table tennis as a women’s sport."
    I'd heard about this second-hand, but this is the first time I'd seen it in writing. Nothing against women's sports, but it does handicap us, since I'd guess women make up perhaps 5-10% of our membership. One thing that's not a criticism but that should be looked at - if NCTTA needs to focus almost entirely on developing as a women's sport in order to get NCAA recognition, then perhaps their board of directors needs to have women, as it's currently made up of seven men. (And yet I'd hate to break up a team that seems pretty successful.) Regardless, if I'm on the USATT board of directors, getting NCAA recognition is something I'd like to work with NCTTA on. It basically means getting ten colleges to submit letters that they sponsor or intend to sponsor table tennis as an NCAA women's sport, and over the next ten years get forty more. Let's get it done!

Camera Angles

Jerry Goldman - an old table tennis buddy of mine from the late 1970s and 1980s - emailed me about camera angles, a pet peeve of his. He pointed out the following two videos, one of which I'd featured in a previous blog. They both show the same spectacular point between Timo Boll and Jun Mizutani - but from different camera angles. The first one shows it more from the side, where you can see the speed of the ball and how far off the table the players are as they race about. The second one (link should take you to 1:24, where the point starts) shows it from one end of the table - and now, with the ball coming more toward you, you cannot see how fast it is moving, nor can you see as well how much the players are moving. As Jerry points out, the latter angle is the standard camera angle at most international tournaments, and as he puts it, "is so utterly terrible" and "uninspiring," and "The ball even when smashed still looks so slow." With the side view (the first one), as Jerry puts it, the play is "utterly exciting." I agree.

He said there is only one other enjoyable angle that he has seen, this one (Ma Long vs. Wang Hao), which is sort of in between the two

Jerry asks, "Why don't the promoters of table tennis tournaments realize what a detriment the end angle is to the sport (at least to me)?" I think it's simply they are used to doing it this way. It's the standard angle from where coaches sit and thereby put video cameras to study later, and so we are perhaps used to it. Plus perhaps the wide-angle view is trickier to catch the whole field of action - but as shown in the first video above, it can be done, and I agree it looks much better that way. Any comments from readers?

Snake Serve

Here's the video (4:32), from Australian Coach Brett Clarke. He has a highly entertaining way of teaching, but stay with him even as he hunts down snakes in the jungle (!) as the serve he teaches is a version that few below the world-class level understand or can do properly. (I posted this once before, but that link is no longer valid.)

Ask the Coach

Episode #29 (16:05) - Expedite System in Action

  • PingSkillers Question of the Day - 0:40: Should the rules of Table Tennis be continuously evolving?
  • Question 1 - 2:45: My style of playing table tennis is as an attacker But when is the time to defense just like block or chop? As I only try to attack the ball as an attacker. Frendy Halim
  • Question 2 - 5:18: I have switched over to the shakehand grip and long pips on my backhand. I play 95% of my balls on the backhand. What are the best strokes to use with long pips to fool the other player? The group I play with hit about 75% underspin. Craig Smith
  • Question 3 - 8:40: Can you please explain what rule is being exercised in this rally and why the point was given to Ai Fukuhara? http://youtu.be/I4hdZyD5GM8 Arnab Ghosh
  • Question 4 - 14:24: Can I hit the ball with the side of my racket? it create some good speed, and it's also surprising. is it legal? Chezki Indursky

Top Ten Shots at the Swedish Open

Here's the video (6:14). 

2015 Ethnic Minority Women in Coaching Leadership Conference

Here's the USATT article.

U.S. Olympic Women's Team with Personalized Paddle Pictures

Here's the picture of Lily Zhang, Ariel Hsing and Erica Wu at the premier of the Top Spin movie Saturday, holding up their rackets with their pictures on them, care of Uberpong.

Pips & Bounce Ping Pong Social Club Opens

Here's the video (4:37) of the new club in Portland, Oregon.

International Table Tennis

Here's my periodic note that you can great international coverage at TableTennista (which especially covers the elite players well) and at the ITTF home page (which does great regional coverage).

Snoopy Playing Table Tennis

Here's a repeating gif image of Snoopy racing side to side playing table tennis by himself as Woodstock watches.


Send us your own coaching news!

November 17, 2014

Tip of the Week

Smooth Acceleration + Grazing Contact = Great Spin.

(This is an updated and expanded version of what was originally a blog entry from a while back.)

Hodge Podge

It was another busy weekend, with lots of stuff to report - hence the heading.

I had an interesting learning experience with one seven-year-old I coach. He's one of the more advanced ones, one you'll likely be hearing about in a few years. He can loop from both wings, and is learning to be more and more consistent, and already has great power. There are a few problems with his technique which I'm working on - too long a backswing, and a tendency to let his free arm hang loose and so not always using the left side of his body. He's tried my racket out, and loves it, and is always trying to borrow it. At first I thought it was too fast for him - a Timo Boll ALC with Tenergy on both sides (05 and 25). But when he borrowed it in drills, his shots got better and better! His father noticed this as well. We discussed it, and finally decided he's ready. So he's borrowing my backup blade (the same racket and sponge), and will soon get a new one. (He currently uses a Timo Boll All-round, with Roundell sponge.)

The old paradigm of starting with slow equipment is still true, but when a kid is training regularly with a coach and has the fundamentals mostly down, the tendency more and more these days is to move him to more advanced equipment sooner than before. This allows him to more easily do advanced shots, and so advance faster than if he were inhibited by equipment that made these shots more difficult to do.

I admonished one of our top juniors for losing a match this past weekend because he kept going to the opponent's backhand instead of going after his middle, which was the "book" on the player. Alas, I didn't coach the match and wasn't there, but was told about it later. C'mon, players, you don't go to the backhand and look for chances to attack the middle; attacking the middle is almost always the default place to go!

I currently have Saturdays off, which is rare for a coach. But I'm looking to move things around so I get either Mondays or Tuesdays off. If so, then I'm looking to start up an advanced training group in Saturdays (primarily for juniors, but others may be welcomed), along with a new beginners class. If all goes well, they'll start up in January.

Here are some great quotes from kids I coached this weekend:

  • Kid #1, who was doing a side-to-side footwork drill and wasn't too happy about it: "My legs are cranky."
  • Kid #2, who was trying to concentrate in an improvised game where he had to serve and backhand loop against backspin, but kept having lapses. Player: "You're distracting me." Me: "I didn't say anything." Player: "You were thinking something."
  • "I killed Scar!" We often end sessions with the younger kids by having them stack paper cups and then knock them down as I feed multiball. Many of the cups have names! The "evil" cup is named Scar, and it is the goal of every kid in the sessions to kill him, i.e. knock him off the table. Actually, the "I killed Scar!" quote happened over and over this weekend.

During the beginning junior session on Sunday (4:30-6:00PM), we had a mixture of white and orange training balls (about half each), and the younger kids (ages 7-9) decided that we would use only orange balls with the robot, and white balls with my multiball. So they began segregating the balls! They were very studious about this. But one kid rebelled and kept putting white balls in the robot, and orange balls in my multiball box. Pandemonium! At that age little things become important, and it led to two kids crying and a near fight as the rebellious kid kept going against the majority. I pulled him aside and told him I agreed with him that it normally didn't matter which balls went where - but for now, the other kids on ball pickup duty were having a lot of fun working together to keep the balls separate, and so why not go along? He wouldn't, and so things got weirder and weirder. I finally found a solution - I kept the rebellious kid on the robot or with me the last 20 minutes, which didn't seem fair to the others (who got less table tennis time), but the other kids wanted it that way. They were having more fun keeping the balls segregated than actually playing!

I got involved recently in a couple of discussions in online table tennis forums. Alas, it's almost always a mistake for me. There's always a troll waiting, either looking to make a name for himself by going after me, or just being a troll. It's too bad as some of these "trolls" do have something to offer, but most seem to be relatively low-level players or coaches who could learn a lot if they'd listen and discuss more, and rip into others less. The primary problem is often inflexible thinking, where one decides something and absolutely will not consider the idea that perhaps his initial thinking isn't completely correct. I learn things as well, often about equipment, which is probably where I'm least knowledgeable as a coach. I know when to keep my mouth shut - when former U.S. Team Member Han Xiao, who has one of the best close-to-the-table backhand loops in the country, talked about backhand looping a few days ago, I closed my mouth except to ask questions, and picked up a few pointers! (And I used to coach and train with him - he began at my club at age seven.) I've also recently learned some subtle stuff on footwork, which I may share later.

In one recent case, one of these "trolls" began posting stuff about how I had made all these claims about how a racket flexes at contact, even claiming I'd made specific claims about the length of these flexes! (He firmly believes that rackets do not flex at contact.) I've never done this, and I still don't know if the person had me mixed up with someone else, or was simply being an ingenious troll. But the troller very insultingly insisted I'd posted these items, but refused to give any source, responding to any queries on this with more insults. Alas. And I really would have liked to discuss it and learn something about racket flex!!! But it would primarily be theoretical knowledge as I have a pretty firm grasp of the practical implications. Knowing specifically how or if a racket flexes at contact isn't as important for a coach as knowing what types of apparent flexing leads to what type of shots, ball control, feeling, etc.

Sunday night was Ice Cream and TV Night in Larry Land. Sunday night is always my TV night (I go easy the rest of the week), where I currently get to watch, back-to-back, The Simpsons, The Walking Dead, The Talking Dead, and The Newsroom. Once a month I splurge on ice cream, usually a hot fudge banana split. But last night a strange thing happened - the ice cream wasn't so fulfilling. I actually really wanted some King Pao Chicken, but it was ice cream night, so ice cream it was. I've been doing this once a month for over twenty years, but you know what? Next month when I do this, I may change it to Kung Pao Chicken Night. We'll see. (This is also why I'm always a bit later getting the blog up on Mondays. I not only have a weekend's accumulation of stuff and the Tip of the Week to write, but I'm also up late on Sunday nights.)

As noted previously, I applied to run for the At-Large position on the USATT Board. The deadline to apply was Friday, and I sent my materials in well in advance - two signed forms, 25+ signatures from adult USATT members, and a one-page statement. The USATT Nominating and Governance committee will announce who is on the ballot by this Friday.

Implementing the European Backhand Loop

Here's the new video (10:10) from Brian Pace.

Forehand Topspin

Here's the video (2:31) by Australian Coach Brett Clarke. He has a highly entertaining way of teaching! But stick with him as he brings out the stuffed bear to demonstrate proper technique.

Play Relaxed Table Tennis

Here's the article from Expert Table Tennis.

11-Part Review of Plastic Balls

Here's the page which links to all eleven videos created by Preston TTA.

Ask the Coach

Episode #28 - Using Your Show as a Bat 10:46.

  • PingSkillers Question of the Day - 0:37: Who is your inspiration?
  • Question 1 - 2:45: I've recently seen your video about amazing tricks where you played holding a shoe. This reminded me of a video of Zhang Jike where he returned ball with his shoe (worn shoe). Is that legal? And how can I perform it? Siddharth Shah
  • Question 2 - 4:02: Whenever I try to loop the ball or topspin the ball I've noticed that it's easier to loop whenever I get lower. I am able to have more leverage on the ball. Is this a good solution? Todd Fee
  • Question 3 - 5:39: What is the reason that so many players use a thinner sponge on their backhand than on their forehand side? To me as a beginner who wants to develop forehand and backhand equally, this wouldn´t make sense, right? Thomas Kunzfeld
  • Question 4 - 7:00: I noticed that in videos from the 80s and before, players tended to bounce the ball off the floor before points. In contrast, players today tend to bounce the ball on the table, if at all. What caused this change? Was a rule created? BG

"TOP SPIN" Video Interview

Here's the video (9:50) as they interview the players (Ariel Hsing, Lily Zhang, and Erica Wu), Co-Director/Producer Mina T. Son, and Co-Director/Editor Sara Newens. The movie "Top Spin" premiered this weekend.

USATT's CEO's Letter to Top Spin the Movie

Here's the letter from USATT CEO Gordon Kaye.

USATT's First ITTF Regional Referee

Here's the USATT article on Michael Meier. He is the first to qualify for the new category of referee, the Regional Referee.

Bruce Lee Ping Pong

Some of you have seen the infamous video of Bruce Lee apparently playing like a pro using nunchuks as a racket. Here's a page that links to the video and also explains its history and that it's all faked. As I've blogged before, it's a Bruce Lee lookalike in a Nokia commercial! But the world is now full of people who believe it's real.

Fan Zhendong Goes Around the Net Twice

Here's the video (55 sec). Although he raises his hand in apology about the apparent edge the second time, I think it's clearly a side ball - wonder how the umpire called it?

"The Longest Table Tennis Rally of All Time"

Here's the video (2:02). It's not even close to being the longest rally of all time (in a serious match) - that would be the two hour 12 minute rally at the 1936 World Championships between Alex Ehrlich of Poland and Paneth Farkas of Romania. But it's still a really long rally between Ai Fukuhara and chopper Hu Limei at 2014 ITTF Swedish Open that ends when the umpire finally calls expedite.

Table Tennis Harder Than It Appears

Here's the article that features college table tennis.

Kellam High in Virginia Beach Kicks off School Ping Pong Club

Here's the article by Dean Johnson.

Kalinikos Kreanga - The Power of Backhand

Here's the video (2:57) - and it not only shows some incredible backhands, but some great forehand play as well!

StellanBeng Table Tennis

Here's the video (10:58) that features table tennis legend and coach Stellan Bengtsson, along with wife and USATT Hall of Famer Angelita Rosal Bengtsson.

Australian Olympic Coach Shows Guam's Students How to Play Ping-Pong

Here's the video (2:05) as Alois Rosario of PingSkills puts on a great demonstration. (This is from 2010, but I hadn't seen it before.) I learned a new one which I'm going to copy - the catch-ball-in-shoe-and-dump-on-other-side trick.

Inclusion Table Tennis

Here's a video (2:22) about this "racquetball" version of table tennis. Here's an article on it in the Brown Daily Herald.

Yan An vs TableTennisDaily's Dan on a Mini Table with Oversized Rackets

Here's the video (7:44).

The Art of Ping-Pong

Here's the article and 21 pictures from The Guardian of Britain.

Table Tennis Jokes

Here are some pages with table tennis jokes.


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November 14, 2014

USATT Election

Today's the final deadline for candidates to apply to get on the ballot. (Here's the USATT Election Notice and Process.)  I sent in the signed forms, the signatures (38 to be safe), and the one-page statement. (I'll put the statement online later on, whether I'm on the ballot or not.) So now all I can do is wait. The final ballot will be announced by next Friday (Nov. 21), with the election from Nov. 27-Dec. 27, and the winners announced Jan. 6.

As noted in my October 23 blog, I'm running on five main issues. If I'm on the ballot, I'll put together a "USATT Election" tab here, and put more information there on these and other issues. I'll devote one blog to each of these five issues for five consecutive days, plus a sixth day to go over a number of other issues. (On the seventh day I'll rest?) As I've noted, I'd like to focus on progressive issues that develop our sport. (I blogged about this on March 19, 2013 - Fairness versus Progressive Issues.)

Here are twelve other items I'd like to get done, in no particular order.

  1. Regular mailings to past members (something like 60,000) to try to bring them back. That's what other successful organizations do.
  2. Letting members get on the USATT ballot by petition with 150 signatures, and letting clubs vote on the Club Representative. (Right now it's an appointed position.) There's also been talk of having a Coach Representative - I'm all for it! We need members who will focus on developing the sport, and any coaching representative would have strong incentive to do just that, as would any real club representative.
  3. Most committees shouldn't be "advisory" - we want them to do things, not just advise.
  4. Too often committees are chaired by the first person who volunteers. We need to do searches and recruit the right candidate for each. I swear I've seen times where a committee chair was decided like Jeopardy - whoever hit the buzzer first (i.e. raised their hand) got the position.
  5. Serve rule - Ball must be visible to both umpires, or where the umpires would sit. I'm going to keep pushing for this rule. (I blogged about this on Nov. 11.)
  6. NCAA recognition. Work with NCTTA on this. Also study their league system to see what we can learn.
  7. Fix rating system. Too much to go into here. To start with we need a USATT Ratings Committee.
  8. Open and Nationals info should be available at least one year in advance. The U.S. Open Tennis Championships the next two years will be on Aug. 31-Sept. 13, 2015, and Aug. 29-Sept. 12, 2016, at Flushing Meadows, NY. Where and when will the 2015 U.S. Open and Nationals Table Tennis Championships be held? We don't know yet.
  9. Publish USA citizens ranking lists (along with "open" lists), as required by a past USATT board vote that's long since been forgotten. Too often U.S. players are buried in the rankings behind foreign players. We need both listings.
  10. Bring back print magazine if financially feasible. (Advertising for the online magazine is dramatically down from the print version.) One-third of our membership doesn't play tournaments, and that's all they really get. U.S. Tennis still has a print magazine, one of their major membership recruiting tools. I think USATT jumped the gun in canceling it. I'd like to have both the online version and the print version - and by adding the online version to the previous print version, we can bring in more advertising than before. (I had two tenures as editor of USATT Magazine, totaling twelve years, and I tripled advertising revenue both times.)
  11. I'm not interested in more rules and equipment changes, other than fixing the hidden serve rule. I'd be very hesitant on any others - I'm tired of rule changes.
  12. Change USATT Mission Statement. See USTA: "To Promote and Develop the Growth of Tennis."

Regarding that last one, here is the Mission Statement of USATT:

"The Mission of the USATT shall be to enable United States athletes to achieve sustained competitive excellence in Olympic/Paralympic, Pan American or Para Pan American Games, and other international competitions, and to promote and grow the sport of Table Tennis in the United States, while creating a lasting value for our members."

Here is the Mission Statement of the U.S. Tennis Association:

"To Promote and Develop the Growth of Tennis."

I prefer theirs - simple and direct, and something that I'd like to continually quote in USATT board meetings when pushing for programs that promote and develop the growth of table tennis in the U.S.

Here's a perfect encapsulation of why I'm running for the USATT Board, which I've linked to before - "The Ping-Pong Apartments." I'm running to fix the Ping-Pong Apartments. (I'll probably link to this again later if I'm on the ballot.) And I plan to continue to be a Man in the Arena.

Top Spin the Movie - Premier Tomorrow!

Here's the home page, and here's info on the premiere at the SVA Theatre in New York City on Saturday, Nov. 15, at 4:30 PM. "In Sara Newens and Mina T. Son’s spirited sports film, three driven teenage athletes attempt to go for Olympic gold. Their sport? The perpetually popular but underappreciated game of table tennis. Northern California’s Ariel Hsing and Lily Zhang balance friendship and professional rivalry to see who’ll come out on top, while Long Island’s Michael Landers sacrifices his senior year of high school to devote more time to training at NYC’s SPiN."

Poly Balls - Where They Are Made

A confidential source yesterday told me that, except for the Nittaku Premium 40+ balls (made by Nittaku in Japan), all of the new poly plastic seamed balls are being made in the Double Happiness factory in China, with different labels attached. This means that the Nittaku Sha 40+, JOOLA Super-P 40+, and Butterfly 40+ are all the same - sort of. Many of them play differently, however, because the manufacturing process is getting better, and so the ones produced just a few months ago aren't as good as the more recent ones. I don't know if this is true, but it could be. (Here's a document from the ITTF, The New Plastic Balls: Questions and Answers, which gives more info on the poly balls.) 

How the Poly Ball Will Change the Game and What You Should Do

Here's the article by Samson Dubina, where he explains how he thinks the new ball will change the game and what you should do.

China: The New Plastic Ball is a Potential Danger

Here's the article from Tabletennista.

Tibhar Basic Exercises in Table Tennis Training

Here's the video (40:45).

Fan Zhendong - The Skills of the Champion

Here's the new video (4:31).

Ask the Coach

Episode #26 (12:35) - Make Your Training Effective

  • Question 1 - 2:52: Can we train everyday for about 3 hours? Yusra
  • Question 2 - 4:10: I couldn't play table tennis for 2-3 months. There was a tournament so i practiced hard and regained my form. But when i played my first match which was against a very weak player i don't know what happened to me and I just started playing horribly. Utkarsh
  • Question 3 - 6:12: My coach told me that i should bend my body and my knees. My eyes should be at the net level throughout the rally. How could i get used to it? Kevin A
  • Question 4 - 9:50: I have problem that when they make a topspin serve or no spin serve I don't know what to do, Is there any way to return this type of serve without flicking? Long

Episode #27 (10:19) - Flicking and Flipping

  • Question 1 - 1:49: I play in a club and I am used to playing on the club table. When I go for a match it is tough to get used to that table and none of my topspins or blocks are landing. But in the club I am able to land most of my balls. How do I overcome this. Rohan
  • Question 2 - 5:00: How to do Seo Hyowon serve with a great spin and curve on the ball? Napnap Salcedo
  • Question 3 - 6:29: Is it advisable to flick a short spiny sidespin serve; with the right height? Abdiel Maldonado
  • Question 4 - 8:18: Hi, I was just wondering what the flip shot is. I've been looking at articles and interviews with players and they've all been saying the flip is really hard to execute. Kevin

The Story of American Table Tennis Champion Jimmy Butler

Here's the new video (15:42). He's seeded fourth at the upcoming USA Nationals at age 43.

Interview with 3-Time U.S. Women's Singles Champion Ariel Hsing

Here it is!

Ai Fukuhara: From Tearful Toddler to Japan's Table Tennis Queen

Here's the article.

Dimitrij Ovtcharov and Bastian Steger Training at the Swedish Open

Here's the video (7:43) of the two Germans, ranked #6 and #19 in the world. Note the interesting little racket "flip" that Ovtcharov does between shots where it appears to be flipping the racket, but actually is just getting it back into position for the next shot. I'd like to see that in slow motion - I might search for that later.  

Ryu Sung Min Impossible Footwork Spin

Here's the video (12 sec)!

Zhang Jike Yellow-Carded for Throwing Racket

Here's the article with links to video.

Eighth Annual Ping Pong Palooza at Sapphire Gentlemens Club

Here are pictures from the event, which was held in Las Vegas to benefit the Sapphire Foundation for Prostate Cancer

Table Tennis Salt & Pepper Shakers Set

Here they are!

Kinect Sports - Table Tennis

Here's an "instructional" video (10:08) that teaches you how to play table tennis in the Kinect Sports Xbox 360.  

The Story of Ping-Pong

Here's the short but funny story! What do you think the reason was?

Best Celebration from the 2013 USA Nationals

Here's the video (55 sec), with the celebration starting at 0:43 as Pruthvi Innamuri of Fremont TTA wins Under 1200, 12-10 in the fifth.

Spider-Man Plays Table Tennis

Here's proof!

  1. Spider-Man Smacks in Forehand Against Pikachu
  2. Spider-Man Plays Doubles with "World Champion" Judah Friedlander
  3. Spider-Man's Big Backhand
  4. Spider-Man Stares at Table
  5. Spider-Man at Ping-Pong Club (15-sec video - you get webbed)
  6. Spider-Man vs. Skeletor (63-second video)
  7. Spider-Man Plays Table Tennis (54-sec video)
  8. Spider-Man plays table tennis with Spider-Man theme music. (3:58 video, Spider-Man masked man appears at 2:37, Spider-Man theme music a few seconds later.)
  9. Spider-Man Ping Pong (22:46 video in Spanish that doesn't actually appear to have any table tennis! Can anyone explain the title?)
  10. Spider-Man Playing Car Pong (1:47 video). Car Pong is from 0:31 to 0:40, and from 0:48 to 1:17 Spider-Man plays Table Pong. (Yes, that's Adam Bobrow.)
  11. Adam Bobrow as Spider-Man.  And here's another. And another (with Superboy looking on). There are plenty more! 
  12. Spider-Man Table
  13. Spider-Man's Andrew Garfield Plays Table Tennis
  14. Spider-Man Makes Web Paddle
  15. Spider-Man Paddles
  16. More Spider-Man Paddles
  17. Still More Spider-Man Paddles
  18. Spider-Paddle
  19. Spider-Balls
  20. Spider-Man vs. Batman Online Ping-Pong Game
  21. Spider Playing Table Tennis
  22. Spider-Man Ping-Pong Gun
  23. Web Slinging Ping Pong Master of Disguise (I have no idea what this one's about)
  24. Ping-Pong Playing Spider Robot


Send us your own coaching news!

November 13, 2014

***NOTE - Due to technical problems all the formatting is getting lost in my blog, and the normal formatting tools in it don't work. This also means I can't up links right now. I had lots of segments ready for today, but I can't put them up without the links. So I'll only put up the regular blog entry. Hopefully this problem will be fixed quickly - I have someone working on it.

I'm coaching a kid with a big forehand but a relatively weak backhand. He's also in the transition stage where he's learning to really topspin the backhand, i.e. loop it in rallies - but it's simply not as strong as his forehand. He's also pretty forehand oriented, and so he's often forcing forehand shots rather than take easier backhand ones - and since he's overplaying the forehand, that side keeps getting better while the backhand side doesn't.

Since he's aware of the problem - we've discussed it quite a bit - we've changed the focus of his training sessions. Overwhelmingly players start sessions by going forehand to forehand. We now start our sessions with backhand to backhand. He goes almost straight to looping the backhand; why re-enforce a flatter backhand when he's trying to learn to topspin it? We spend perhaps the first ten minutes going just backhand to backhand, where he loops and I block. This saturation training is dramatically improving his backhand. Not only is the backhand loop getting better, but it's getting him in the habit of actually using it in games rather than switching over to his normal forehand-oriented game.

I've also told him he should try winning some matches by focusing on backhand attacking, and not playing forehands except against balls going to his forehand and on obvious weak shots to his backhand. Eventually, when his backhand is strong, he may go back to playing more forehand - but for now, I want to turn his backhand into a weapon.

One of the big advantages of starting the session with the backhand is that we can come back to it. If you do too much of one shot you tire the muscles and even risk injury. So after the initial ten minutes of backhand looping, we do some forehand training, and then come back to the backhand. The second set of backhand training is multiball. Typically we'll do the following drills for his backhand:

1. I feed topspin to his backhand, hitting harder and harder as he backhand loops.
2. I feed topspin to his backhand, varying the pace as he backhand loops.
3. I feed topspin side to side, and he loops from both wings.
4. I feed topspin, alternating feeding to his wide backhand and middle backhand, and he moves side to side, looping his backhand.
5. I feed topspin randomly to his backhand, and he's forced to react and cover half the table with his backhand.
6. I feed backspin to his backhand and he backhand loops.
7. I feed backspin randomly to his backhand and he backhand loops, covering half the table with his backhand.
8. I alternate feeding backspin then topspin to his backhand, and he loops both.
9. I feed random topspin to the whole table, and he loops everything from both wings.

I am worried about over-training, since he's using the backhand muscles a lot more than usual. So I regularly check to make sure nothing's hurting. (Kids often won't tell you unless you ask.) If he looks tired I'll give him a ten-second break to allow the muscles to recover.

The payoff for all of this? As I pointed out to him yesterday, when I coach him I'm staying much lower than usual. Most coaches get a bit lazy and tend to stand up straighter during their many hours of coaching, but I'm so threatened by his stronger backhand that I'm subconsciously staying low so as to better react to the shot. As I also told him, at the higher levels a big forehand loops is often "a dime a dozen," since nearly everyone has a good forehand at that level, but if you have big shots from both wings - that's scary. In drills his backhand right now sort of alternates from being erratic to being scary, and when it's the latter, that's when you can see where he'll be perhaps next year. Scary.

[Here's an old joke I'll stick in here since I can't do my normal links this morning.]
The kids challenged me and the mother-in-law to a doubles game. They'll never hear the last of it - we surprisingly won considering I was playing with an old bat. (Boo!!! Hiss!)
Send us your own coaching news!

November 12, 2014

Tournaments and Omnipong

I've run over 120 USATT tournaments, ranging from monthly tournaments at MDTTC all through the 1990s to the 1998 Eastern Open which received 411 entries, still the record for a four-star tournament. (Richard Lee was tournament president for that one, his first big tournament, and he's been running them all over the country ever since with North American Table Tennis.) Running a large one is a massive undertaking, and even the smaller ones take far more time and work than most realize.

I sometimes think all tournament players should be required to run a USATT tournament just one time, to see what really goes on. Observant players have a good idea of what tournament directors do during a tournament; really observant ones who think it through have a good idea of all the work that went on before the tournament. Before the tournament, directors (sometimes working with a referee) receive the entries, enter them onto the computer (unless, heaven forbid in this day and age, they are running it by hand, on paper!), check all the memberships, create draws (including checking for geographical separation and other complexities), finalize the scheduling, and print everything out so it's ready. They get all the tables, nets, and barriers in place, put up the table numbers, and make sure everything is clean. And then there are those thousand small details that, if I listed them all, it'd take up about a year's worth of blogs.

There's also the more advance work - scheduling the tournaments, creating the entry forms, circulating them, publicizing the tournament, and so on. I change my mind; even running a small one is a massive undertaking!!! There's a reason why "tournament" is just an anagram for "one tantrum."

There are various types of software out there you can use to run tournaments. One that I can strongly recommend, and that's spreading all over the country, is Omnipong. I ran two tournaments with it last year, and it worked really well. (Because of conflicts with my weekend coaching, Charlene Liu took over as MDTTC tournament director - and she also uses Omnipong.) It's easy to learn, easy to use, and perhaps best of all, it puts all the results online, so anyone can see all of the results immediately afterwards - even the preliminary round robins.

Go to Omnipong, click on "Tournaments," and note just how widespread the software has become. Then pick out a tournament, any tournament, and click on "Results." Have fun exploring!

I emailed Craig Krum, the creator of the software, and asked if he could tell us about it. Below is his response. (Tournament directors should read and study every word, but the eyes of players will likely glaze over, and they should probably skip ahead to the next segment. Or perhaps read "Top Ten Ways to Play Your Best in a Tournament," or "Should You Play Tournaments When Working on Something New?," or perhaps "Tournament Toughness.")

The Short Version:

  • Started development in the mid-90s as a personal tool to help run tournaments, which I had been doing by hand with Harold Kopper for the Rialto Table Tennis Club. Being a programmer I was able to keep adding the features that I needed to make my job easier.
  • I developed the internet version of OmniPong in 2011, so players would be able to sign up online, and to make the system available to other TDs. To date this version of OmniPong has been used by over 25 Directors to run over 200 tournaments. The tournaments range from unsanctioned events with 20 players, to the National Senior Games, with over 400 players. This total also includes 23 four-star events.
  • Nearly 2500 players have registered with OmniPong, so they can enter tournaments online.

Online Registration System Highlights:

  • Online entry.
  • Online payment using credit cards or PayPal. Connects directly to Tournament Director's account.
  • Payment tracking and verification.
  • Weekly updates from USATT, to keep ratings and membership information current.
  • Automatically verifies which events a player can enter, based on their rating, age, gender, time conflict, etc.
  • Electronic submission of results file to NATT for processing.
  • Electronic submission of the reports that need to be sent to USATT for processing (Tournament Report, Player Listing, Membership Applications).
  • Ability to send custom emails to all players for various reasons (welcome message, entry verification, balance due, link to results, etc.)
  • Immediate publication of results online.
  • Family members can link OmniPong accounts together, for easy entry and payment for tournaments.
  • Many reports available.

Control Desk Highlights:

  • Easy to use visual interface.
  • Tracks table usage, including who is on the table, and how long a match has been playing.
  • Handles Round Robin groups up to 12 players.
  • Automatically breaks ties based on USATT/ITTF rules.
  • Draws automatically try to avoid conflicts when players are from the same club,  have played each other before, or live close to each other.
  • Time scheduling of all matches, which shows potential player conflicts.
  • No internet connection is necessary during the tournament.

Future Plans:

  • Finish Team format.
  • Add League system.
  • Add Club management system.
  • A million other things!

2015 Pan Am, National Men and Women’s Team, and Men and Women’s World Team Selection Procedure

Here they are.

Forehand Loop of Tao Wenzhang

Here's video (39 sec) of the 2014 U.S. Open Men's Singles Champion that shows perfect looping form. You can learn a lot by watching this. I had a student watch it to see the contact point in relation to the body, since the student was contacting the ball too much in front (thereby losing power) instead of more to the side, as Tao and other world-class players do.

Reverse Pendulum Backspin Serve Swing and Contact Point

Here's the video (3:04). This is part 3 - you can find parts 1 & 2 here.

Interview with Tamara Boros

Here's the interview by Dora Kurimay with the former world #2 woman, on "The Key to Success: Positive Mental Attitude."

Training for a Purpose

Here's the new video (1:24) from the Zhou Xin TT Academy.

Ask the Coach

Here's episode #25. (12:10).

  • Question 1 - 2:22: How and when to move to ready position after you've made a pendulum serve from the backhand corner with your left leg in front of you. Should you move into position when you know where your opponent will place the return or as soon as you’ve served? Robin
  • Question 2 - 4:41: Why Can't We Start With a Fast Bat? Why do we need different blades and rubber? Why we can't start with a higher topspin or power? Can I buy Pingskills Touch Vega Pro Bat for my second Bat? Kritpol
  • Question 3 - 8:00: I recently purchased a small table tennis table and I was wondering what kind of training will I be able to do with a small table? Enoch Oppong
  • Question 4 - 9:53: Is it a good move to chop smash and why none of the professional players use it? Petar

Now This is a Great Point!

Here's the video (39 sec) - and it's at match point!

Tribute to the Troops

Here's Mike Mezyan's table tennis tribute artwork to the Troops yesterday on Veteran's Day.

JOOLA Fun Games Finalists

Here's the video (48 sec) of the four finalists!

Recent Movies with Table Tennis

Here are some recent movies that were not about table tennis, but had table tennis scenes.

  • Big Hero 6 - As I blogged yesterday, when the hero Hiro (pun intended!) visits the university where they are making robots there are two robots rallying in the background. A few minutes later they are seen again. Alas, I can't find video or pictures.
  • Minions - the trailer features table tennis 80 seconds in. (Movie doesn't come out until July of next year.)
  • Despicable Me 2 - There's a brief shot in the film in which Edith is playing ping pong with a minion, but uses a pair of nunchaku instead of a ping pong paddle. There's also a party scene where the minions are sitting about on the ping-pong table. Here's an online video (11 sec) of the minions playing table tennis that's not in the movie.
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past - Here's an animated gif of the character Quicksilver playing table tennis, as Hank/Beast, a young Charles Xavier (in background), and Wolverine look on.
  • About Time - here's a clip (53 sec) where father and son play.
  • Gravity - When they get to the Chinese ship, about ten minutes from the end, twice you see a ping-pong paddle floating about. I wasn't able to find video or a picture.
  • 22 Jump Street (okay, it was only beer pong, but close enough.)
  • Monster University - Here's a gif image of the table tennis scene.


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