Blogs

Larry Hodges' daily blog will go up Mon-Fri by noon USA Eastern time (usually by 10 AM, more like noon on Mondays when he does a Tip of the Week and has three days to cover). Larry is a member of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame, a USATT Certified National Coach, a professional coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (USA), and author of eight books and over 1500 articles on table tennis. Here is his bio

Make sure to order your copy of Larry's best-selling book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!
21 chapters, 240 pages, 102,000 words. Finally, a tactics book on this most tactical of sports!!!
Also out - Table Tennis Tips and More Table Tennis Tips, which cover, in logical progression, his Tips of the Week from 2011-2013 and 2014-2016, with 150 Tips in each! Or, for a combination of Tales of our sport and Technique articles, try Table Tennis Tales & Techniques
If you are in the mood for inspirational ficiton, The Spirit of Pong is also out - a fantasy story about an American who goes to China to learn the secrets of table tennis, trains with the spirits of past champions, and faces betrayal and great peril as he battles for glory but faces utter defeat. Read the First Two Chapters for free!

July 20, 2017

Gone Until Monday, July 31
I’m on vacation and out of town starting this afternoon until Sunday, July 30. Normal people vacation at places like Disneyworld, beaches, or some other vacationy place. Me? Every year about this time I go to a science fiction writing workshop in Manchester, NH, for nine days of intense writing, critiquing, and classes. Fun!!! See you in eleven days.

How You Can Improve at Table Tennis
This morning I was going to write about the segment title – “How You Can Improve at Table Tennis.” But that literally would take a book. I considered shorter ways of doing it, but those would just touch the surface. Then I realized that probably my best and favorite Tip of the Week, “How to Move Up a Level,” pretty much covered it – and yet, these Tips, once published, tend to be lost and forgotten. So below I am reprinting this Tip of the Week from August 4, 2014. (My books Table Tennis Tips and More Table Tennis Tips both have chapters titled “Improving,” with 54 different Tips out of 300 total in the two books.)

How to Move Up a Level
What does it mean to move up a level in table tennis? I'd define two players to be on different levels if it would be a major upset if one defeated the other. Another way of looking at it would be to say that if the stronger player plays his normal level, he would win pretty much every time. Based on this, I'd say a level in table tennis ranges from about 300 points at the lower levels (under 1000 or so), to about 100 points at the higher levels (over 2500 or so). For most USATT members, a level would be about 200 rating points or so.

How can you move up a level in table tennis? It means improving all parts of your game, as one weak link in your game is like a weak link in a chain.

You could work hard, dramatically improve one aspect of your game, and hope to move up a level. But it's not that simple. Suppose you develop a really nice forehand loop. With this weapon, you would think that your level would go up dramatically. And sure enough, you will do better against players around your own level. But when you play players a level higher, their level is far enough ahead of yours that they'll simply do something to disarm your new weapon. They may serve short, push short, push very heavy, throw spinny or fast serves at you, use ball placement, block well, force backhand exchanges, play quick shots so you don't have time to loop, or simply attack first. In each case, they'll take your weapon away from you, and you still won't move up that coveted level. Often, a stronger player will seem to win on one of his strengths, when in fact he is winning by exploiting a weakness of yours that allows him to use his strength.

The lesson is that to move up a level, you need to improve your overall game, not just one aspect. A player who is a level stronger than you rarely defeats you on one aspect of his game (although many erroneously believe this to be true); he does so by improving the overall level of his game. (There are, of course, players who have improved all but one aspect of their game, and by improving that one final aspect, suddenly go up the coveted level!) A strength in your game can compensate for a weakness, but only to a certain extent.

So how do you go about improving the overall level of your game? To move up a level in table tennis, you have be able to match the players a level higher than you on five key things:

  1. You have to return your opponents' serves as well as they return your serves.
  2. You have to either rally as fast as your opponents can rally, or force your opponents to rally at your pace (by slowing the pace down with pushes, slow loops, controlled drives, etc.). Rallying at their pace means either hitting at their pace, or simply reacting to their pace (i.e. blocking or chopping). "Pace" means both speed and quickness.
  3. You have to be able to react to your opponents' rallying spins (loops, pushes, chops, lobs, spins returned by long pips, etc.) as well as they react to yours.
  4. You have to be able to end the point (i.e. smashing, loop kills) as well as your opponents do. This means either being able to end the point as well as your opponents, or being able to stop them from ending the point better than you can by not giving them shots where they can end the point. Ending the point does not always mean ending it with one shot - it can also mean a series of strong shots that win the point.
  5. And finally, you have to have at least one strength that threatens your opponents as much as their strengths threaten you, and a way of getting your strength(s) into play.

You may have noted that tactics is not one of the five "keys." This is because tactics is part of all five keys. Stronger/weaker tactics simply make you stronger/weaker in each key.

Do some (but not all) of the above five keys, and your performance in a tournament will go up some, perhaps half a level, but not a full level. Developing a single "overpowering" strength won't raise your level as much as you'd think, as opponents a level higher will beat you on the less developed parts of your game. Even players at your "previous" level will still often beat you by exploiting these weaknesses. But ... if you improve all five things, even just a little bit, you'll go up dramatically.

What's stronger, a chain with four powerful links and one weak one, or a chain with five pretty strong ones?

Wanna Buy a Table Tennis Book?
Here’s my Amazon listing! (I just spent $1900 in car repairs and $700 for a new laptop – please buy a book or ten!)

USA Nationals Ratings
They are processed.

Design a Ball Competition
Here’s info on this competition from Aerobic Table Tennis, and here’s the prize listing.

Benefits of Having a Table Tennis Coach
Here’s the article by Brian Pace.

Robert Ho's Table Tennis Tidbits #2
Here’s the article, “Offense and Defense: The Influence of Rubber on Tactics.” (Tidbits #1, “Looping,” was in my Tuesday blog.)

Butterfly Presents: Footwork Drills by Stefan Feth, Drill No. 4
Here’s the new video (74 sec).

Ask the Coach
Questions Answered at PingSkills.

Style or Substance
Here’s the new article by Coach Jon. “Seeing Life Through the Lens of Table Tennis.”

Table Tennis Articles from ThoughtCo
Here they are!

USATT Insider
Here’s the new issue that came out yesterday.

USATT Hall of Fame Banquet Program
It’s online. I’ve been doing these for USATT since 2009.

Adam is the Voice of Table Tennis
Here’s the article in the Deccan Chronicle, one of the biggest newspapers in Chennai.

Ever Wondered Why Table Tennis is Called Ping-Pong?
Here’s the article from Sports Flu.

Liebherr 2017 World Championships, Social and Viewership Records Broken
Here’s the ITTF article.

Fidget Spinner vs. Table Tennis
Here’s the video (11:43) from EmRatThich. I’ve never heard of a fidget spinner, but I’m guessing they are popular in China.

Evolution of Table Tennis 3
Here’s the video (8:25) with some fascinating video of the sport from the hardbat era and early sponge days, including Johnny Leach, Hiroji Satoh, and Ichira Ogimura. Here’s the History of Table Tennis videos home page.

Point from 1978 European Championships
Here’s the video (65 sec) of England’s Desmond Douglas (attacking) vs. France’s Jacque Secretin.

Water Pong
Here’s the video (35 sec) – every club should have one of these. And a pond.

“Elvis Table” at Pong Planet Designed by Gary Alcares
Here’s the article and pictures.

Pong Fire
Here’s the picture – can you take the heat?

Shark Pong
So . . . are you a ping-pong shark?

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July 19, 2017

Goals
Why do you play table tennis? Everyone has a reason, and whether you’ve thought it through or not, it always comes down to goals. Is your goal to have fun? Fitness? To quench your competitive spirit? Improvement? To reach a specific level or win a specific title? To make money?

  • Fun. This should be at least part of everyone’s reason. If it isn’t fun, why not find another sport or activity that is fun for you? The fun could be either from the play itself or from being around your table tennis friends.
  • Fitness. It’s a great way to get in shape, especially if you are training (i.e. doing drills, including lots of footwork drills).
  • Competitive Spirit. This is not to be confused with “fun.” Some people are just very competitive, and need to compete. Playing table tennis for them is like drinking coffee for someone else. They may take coaching to become better, or just to develop a specific technique that they want to use to compete, such as a serve or a loop. They may be driven to beat a specific player or players, with these goals changing as they improve or the players they play changes.
  • General Improvement. Some just like to get better at something, usually with the idea of reaching their potential. If so, then the proper combination of coaching, practice, and match play will lead to this. (Many leave out sports psychology training, systematic receive training, or some other important part, and so never reach their potential.)
  • Specific Level or Title. This could be anything from achieving a 2000 rating to winning the club/county/state/national/world title, perhaps in men’s, women’s, or an age group. Or it could be just becoming the neighborhood champ – though goals often go up after achieving lowly ones like this.
  • To Make Money. Okay, that’s just for us professional coaches and players!

So which of these are important to you? In theory, you could put a percentage on each so it adds up to 100%, but that doesn’t really work. A player may be putting 100% effort into improvement, but still enjoy the sport and also play for fitness and other reasons. Instead, perhaps put a percentage on each for how much each one is important to you. I know that at various times in my 41 years in the sport I’d have put 100% (or close to it) for each of these, though rarely at the same time.

USATT Minutes and Actions
Here’s the USATT Minutes and Actions page, where you can find all the doings of the USATT Board of Directors. The minutes of a number of past meetings were recently posted. (I’m one of the nine on the board.)

Ask the Coach
Questions Answered at PingSkills.

Legends of the Liebherr 2017 World Championships
Here’s the ITTF article and video (90 sec).

WTTC 2017: World Table Tennis Championships
Here’s the new highlights video (3:46), set to music, by EmRatThich.

Ping Pong, Elderly Delighted after Winning
Here’s the article from Sports Flu.

JOOLA Prop Challenge - Table Tennis Tricks Compilation
Here’s the article and video (2:33).

Around the Net Loop
Here’s a repeating gif (5 sec) as India’s Sharath Kamal Achanta takes it around the net.

Chicken Man Playing with a Pot
Here’s the picture!

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July 18, 2017

A Typical Private Coaching Session
What happens in a typical private coaching session? It depends on the coach and the player. Some coaches are more practice partners, others do more coaching. (This also depends on the player - those with good technique need less coaching, more training.) Some coaches do only “live” hitting, while others mix in multiball training. Some coaches do the same drills with everyone, others vary the drills and personalize them for each player.

The player’s level, playing style, and goals greatly affect a session. Beginners work mostly on basics, while high-level players are mostly honing skills they already do at a high level. Players with different playing styles do different drills, obviously. But the player’s goals also make a huge difference. When working with a kid, the sky’s the limit, and coaches often train them as if they someday might be fighting to be world champion. Others might not have the coordination necessary, and so coaches focus on developing basic skills – except, if the player has a lot of drive, he might progress into high-level training. Others are only there to get in shape, have fun, or to work on a specific skill.

Here’s a typical private coaching session with me.

  1. Start. Regardless of the level, we start with a good warm-up. If the player has already warmed up with someone else, then this is rather short. For beginners, there’s a huge overlap between “warm-up” and “practice” since in both cases they are working on basics. So beginners spend a lot more time on this, doing basic forehands and backhands. We also do down-the-line practice.
  2. Attack. For most players we then progress into looping against block. For hitters and many advanced beginners, it might be smashing against my block or fishing. After the student has done this, often I’ll take a turn looping so they can work on their block.
  3. Footwork. Every drill involves footwork, but some more than others. Most often I have start off with forehand-forehand footwork, one ball to the forehand corner, one to the middle, and they do all forehands, either drives or loops. Later we will do other footwork drills – backhand-backhand footwork (ball to wide backhand, ball to toward middle); 2-1 drill (backhand from backhand corner, forehand from backhand corner, forehand from forehand corner, repeat); forehand-backhand footwork; and about a dozen other regular ones to choose from, including (for more advanced players) various random drills. These drills are often highly personalized. For example, most older players don’t do the 2-1 drill, while younger players are often worked at a faster pace.
  4. Multiball. I do at least a box of multiball in every session, usually two. This is by far the most systematic way to practice attacking backspin, as well as rapid-fire developing many other techniques. I normally start with backspin, usually fed side to side, with the player looping. We do both forehand and backhand, including side-to-side, where they alternate forehand and backhand looping. There’s also random backspin, where they have to loop forehand or backhand depending on the incoming ball. Then we get to combinations. For example, I might feed backspin to the middle, they forehand loop, and I give a quick topspin to the wide forehand, and they loop again, then repeat. Or the reverse, with the backspin to the wide forehand, topspin to the middle. Similar drills can be done to the backhand, or backhand-forehand combinations. I usually finish with random topspin to two spots – forehand or backhand – followed by full random, where I feed anywhere, including middle. Another semi-multiball drill is I serve, they push, I loop (and reach for the next ball), they counterloop (or block), and repeat. I’ll also do multiball serving so they get to work on receive – I just serve and grab the next ball, no playing out the point here.
  5. Points. Now we practice much of what we’ve done with multiball. Often this means they serve backspin, I push to either a pre-arranged spot or area (or anywhere), they loop, and play out point. (Sometimes we’ll pre-arrange where my first block goes.) But they might also use other serves in other drills, such as short serves where I flip and they attack, or they serve long, I loop steady, and they counter-attack. There are countless variations. I usually take a turn where I serve to them so they can work on the receive.
  6. Games. I often end sessions with games, either regular ones or improvised ones. An example of improvised would be the student serves backspin, I push to a specific spot or randomly (depending on their level), they loop, and we play out the point. Sometimes we play games where I mimic a style, or chop, or play as a pusher-blocker. Other times I play my regular game.
  7. Review. I generally do a short review of the session at the end, and give recommendations for what they should be working on before our next session.

Robert Ho's Table Tennis Tidbits #1
Here’s the article, which focuses on looping, with links to three videos.

Ask the Coach
Questions answered at PingSkills.

Improve Your Serve to Improve Your Game
Here’s the podcast (29:37) from PingSkills.

The Evolution of the Table Tennis Ball and How Plastic Balls Will Change the Scene
Here’s the article by Radivoj Hudetz.

Table Tennis Players Height: Short or Tall, Does it Matter?
Here’s the article from Sports Flu.

USA Para Table Tennis Young Talent - Ian Seidenfeld
Here’s the USATT article by Tina Huynh.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 19 (1991-1992)
Here's chapter seventeen! Or order your own print copies at TimBogganTableTennis.com, as well as Volume 19!

Nittaku ITTF Monthly Pongcast - June 2017
Here’s the video (14:50).

Timo Boll Training Serve & Forehand & Backhand
Here’s the video (15:08).

Ryu Seung Min Training Forehand & Backhand & Serve
Here’s the video (26:46).

Amazing 10-year-old Kid in China
Here’s the video (7:43).

Swimming Pool Shadow Practice
Here’s the video (58 sec) – so why aren’t you doing this?

Fishpong
Here’s the cartoon!

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July 17, 2017

Tip of the Week
Sports Psychology.

Post Nationals Saturation Training
Now that the Nationals is over, it’s time to address various technical issues with some students. You don’t want to mess around with their technique too much just before a major tournament, so there have been some cases where I averted my eyes to certain things, waiting until after the Nationals.

Now it’s time for a few of them to do a bit of Saturation Training. I’ve kept notes on players I’ve been coaching, and now we’re addressing these problems. I’ve noticed a similar bad habit among three of them, who seem to have adopted backhand ready stances as their neutral stance in matches, even though they don’t seem to do so when drilling. One player has been struggling with his forehand in fast rallies – he seems to go into a backhand stance sometimes, and tries to play forehands from that position. Many top players do this, but it takes a LOT of physical and table training to get right, and we’re probably going to make some adjustments.

Two others players have similar problems – they seem to start many rallies standing in a backhand stance, and aren’t ready to attack with their forehand when they get the chance, often backhand pushing even against balls toward their forehand side. That has to stop!!! Anyway, I worked with one of them yesterday, and he’s now focused on keeping his right foot at least slightly back in his ready stance. (He’s a righty.) Note that if you stand toward your backhand side and have your feet parallel to the end-line, then you are facing the opponent’s forehand side. That’s fine if he’s about to hit a shot from there, but if he’s serving or hitting from the backhand side, then you should be roughly facing him, meaning your feet should be parallel to him, not the table.  

Other problems we’re working on with various students include the need for more spin on their backspin serves; more serve variety; ready to loop deep serves; and trying to stay at the table rather than back up the first time the opponent hits the ball harder than a push. Plus, the inspiration for this week’s Tip of the Week was the number of times at the Nationals I saw players blow 2-0 game leads. (This didn’t happen to any of the matches I was coaching, so maybe there is something to this sports psychology thing!)

Table Tennis Update: China National Team Boycott and Giveaway
Here’s the video (8:30) from EmRatThich.

How to Read Service Spin
Here’s the article and video (7:43) from Tom Lodziak

Service Tactics
Here’s the video (2:49) from PingSkills.

How to Counterloop——Yangyang's table tennis lessons
Here’s the video (8:22).

Ask the Coach
Questions answered at PingSkills.

USATT Announces Youth National Teams for 2017-2018
Here’s the article and listing.

Table Tennis Joins LA Mayors Inauguration Celebrations
Here’s the USATT article.

Chop Blocks by Koki Niwa
Here’s the video (57 sec). The Japanese star is #9 in the world.

Tomokazu Harimoto vs. Joo Se Hyuk
Here’s the video (8:24, time removed between points). The 14-year-old phenom from Japan, who recently turned 14, is now ranked #18 in the world! But now he’s up against the experienced chopper/looper from Korea, the men’s singles finalist from 2003.

2017 US Nationals Slo-Mo Analysis
Here’s the video (45 sec) by Cory Johnson. “Modern Defense: Rushing the Table Mistakes. Here are two examples of half-executed technique for when the modern defender should "rush the table" –– especially if one (like myself) is far too comfortable away from the table. Although I do make the "correct" decision & stroke when rushing, I nonetheless fail to finish out the point.”

Ball Bouncing while on a Vibrating Exercise Machine
Here’s the video (37 sec).

Wimblepong: Ping Pong on the Streets
Here’s the hilarious video (4:25)! “We took our Pongo Portable Ping Pong Set out on the streets and challenged random people to a game of WimblePong which is Ping Pong Wimbledon Style.”

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July 14, 2017

Serving Seminar at 2017 USA Nationals
At the USA Nationals I gave a one-hour serving seminar on Tuesday night. Here are the notes I used, with some explanations and links added in brackets.

  1. Can Ma Long move his racket substantially faster than you when he serves? Probably not.
    1. They smoothly accelerate into the ball, and graze with a deceptive motion.
    2. Serving is the one part of table tennis where we all start out even.
  2. How to Create Spin [Here’s a Tip on this.]
    1. Demo backspin serve back into net, curving sidespin serves.
    2. Grippy rubber and rubber cleaner
    3. Smooth acceleration with body, forearm, and wrist.
    4. Grazing
    5. High-toss [Here’s a Tip on this.]
  3. Exercises to Increase Your Spin [Here’s a Tip of this, specifically on creating heavy backspin, with info on the “Scoop” method below.]
    1. Spin and catch
    2. Scoop method
    3. Backspin & sidespin games
  4. How to Create Deception
    1. Great spin
    2. Spin/no-spin [Here’s a Tip on this. Here’s another.]
    3. Semi-circular motion [Here’s a Tip on this.]
    4. Changing axis of racket rotation [Here’s a Tip on this. Here’s another.]
    5. Illegal hidden serves [We had a short discussion of the problem.]
  5. How to Serve Low (to net and low bounce on other side) [Here’s a Tip on this.]
    1. Low contact point
    2. Graze the ball
    3. First bounce on your side near your end-line so that it approaches the net at a low angle. [This is one of the least understood parts of serving. But it becomes more obvious when demoed when players observe the lowness of the bounce here, as opposed to when the first bounce is closer to the net. It’s discussed in the Tip linked above.]
    4. Highest point as it crosses the net
    5. Practice with serving bars [Here’s a picture. John Olsen made these for MDTTC.]
  6. Depth [Here’s a Tip on controlling service depth. Here’s another.]
    1. Long, half-long, sometimes very short (mostly to forehand)
    2. World-class – about 80% short. Varies by level.
    3. Most serves – first or second bounce on far side right about the end-line.
  7. Specific Serves
    1. Forehand Pendulum, Reverse Pendulum, Scoop, Tomahawk, Reverse Tomahawk;
      Backhand Serve; Reverse Backhand; Inside-Out Backhand, Windshield
  8. How to Practice Serves [Here’s a Tip on this.]
    1. Box of balls
    2. Serving routine [Everyone should have a set routine they go through before every serve. It puts you in the proper frame of mind. Here’s a Tip on this.]
    3. Visualize each serve – always. Imagine contact and entire path and bounces of ball
  9. Placement
    1. Forehand, backhand, middle
    2. Sidespin breaking away and breaking in [Here’s a Tip on this.]
  10. Fast, Deep Serves [Here’s a Tip on this. Here’s another. And here’s one more.]
    1. First and last bounce
    2. Topspin, Sidespin, Flat
    3. Short to forehand/Long to backhand combo

I’ve Joined the Aruba TTA Board of Directors!
Well, sort of - here’s the listing!!! For reasons unknown – perhaps to add an imagined bit of credibility? – the Aruba TTA has hilariously and ridiculously put up the USATT Board of Directors listing from last year as their Board of Directors, with their president (Oscar Helmeyer) replacing then-board chair Peter Scudner at the top. (There’s a chance that at some point this weekend the page will go down or get changed – if so, I might take this segment down.) USATT has already contacted them and asked them to take this down, but the only result so far seems to be the addition of the “Sample Data” note at the top left. (I don’t think that was there before, but I’m not 100% sure.) Anyway, as a proud member of the Aruba TTA Board of Directors since (I have no idea since when, presumably after a hard-fought election?), I’m proposing we built a wall around our country and making USA pay for it, and then, inside those enclosed walls we’ll build a ping-pong paradise, where the games are to 21, we use 38mm balls, and the hidden service rule is enforced. (Here’s the current USATT Board of Directors.)

ITTF Development Magazine Available Online
Here’s the ITTF article. Here’s the direct link to download it. It’s 64 pages, including a “Spotlight on North American” on pages 52-53. “Published every four years in accordance with the Olympic cycle, released at the recent Liebherr 2017 World Championships in Düsseldorf at the end of May, the latest ITTF Development magazine is now available online.”

Names of Recently Qualified ITTF Blue Badge Umpires Announced
Here’s the ITTF article, and the ITTF listing. With Linda Leaf added on June 1, USA now has ten: Esther Aliotta, Ray Cavicchio, Valeriy Elnatanov, Irina Hellwig, Yelena Karshted, Linda Leaf, Kagin Lee, Michael Meier, Saul Weinstein, and Joseph Yick.

Who is the Expert?
Here’s the new article by Samson Dubina.

Ask the Coach
Questions Answered at PingSkills.

"Boomerang" Flick
Here’s the video (6:22) from EmRatThich – this is the “Strawberry Flip” that USA Men’s Coach Stefan Feth often teaches!

5 Ways You Can Improve Your Table Tennis Skills Faster
Here’s the article from Sports Flu, by Aditya Kumar Awasthi. The five are: Focus on FEELING, Hit by the ‘Legs,’ Fix the hitting position, Relax, Explode and Relax, and Tactics in Table Tennis. Here are more table tennis articles from Sports Flu. Alas, they aren’t dated so I don’t know which are new.

Best African Ever, Quadri Aruna Votes for Atanda Musa
Here’s the ITTF article.

2017 World Championships: Time of the Legends!
Here’s the new ITTF music video (90 sec).

10 Unexpectedly Great Benefits of Playing Table Tennis
Here’s the article by Miranda Larbi for Metro.co.uk.

ITTF’s Heads-Up Challenge
Here’s the video (2:08). Lots of USA in this. (I think I posted a different version of this previously.)

Table Tennis or Quidditch?
I finally found the shirt for both my table tennis and science fiction/fantasy interests – here it is!

Puppy Pong
Here’s the video (19 sec) – Call the SPCA! They pelted the dog abused dog twice!!! (We’re going to do this at our club – a brother/sister combo often brings their dog during training.)

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July 13, 2017

My first Few Hours in Las Vegas
I think I had the worst first few hours in Las Vegas in the history of table tennis in Las Vegas – and I didn’t even gamble. Most people gripe about this type of thing on Facebook or to friends; I get to blog about it! So here is how my first few hours went, starting from minutes after I landed for the USA Nationals on Sunday, July 2. Skip to the other segments if you don’t want to hear my gripes!!!

  1. Right after landing I checked my email, and discovered a “poison pen” email from someone. I won’t go into details, let’s just say it was pretty ridiculous.
  2. As I went out to catch the shuttle, I got to see the shuttle leave, and had to wait for the next one.
  3. I got to the hotel at about 10AM, but the room wasn’t ready and check-in didn’t start until 11AM. So I found a comfortable spot, opened my laptop to check email and web pages . . . and it didn’t work. It was a brand new laptop, bought a week before to replace my previous one, which was about seven years old. But the new one kept freezing up and giving me “Not Responding” messages, so I wasn’t able to use it.
  4. I then got in line to check in. The line was already longer than the Great Wall of China. It took over an hour to get through it.
  5. When I registered for the hotel, I chose the Westgate over the tournament hotel, the Linq, for one simple reason – it was cheaper. When I registered by phone, they assured me there was no “resort fee,” that dreaded add on that they bilk people with. They also emailed me the hotel costs, which didn’t include the resort fee. When I checked in, they added the resort fee. I argued with them for half an hour, but they said it was “standard,” and whoever said otherwise was mistaken. I had little choice at that point, so I was bilked out of $33.96 x 6 = $203.76, which I have to pay out of my own pocket. I will be staying at the Linq next time.
  6. When I got to my room, it was about 48 degrees – I’m not exaggerating here. (If I were to exaggerate, I’d have it below freezing.) Someone had put the AC on full blast at the coldest setting. I tried changing the setting, but it wouldn’t change – the setting was jammed! I had to go to the playing hall so finally had to just turn the AC off, and didn’t use it the whole week I was there, despite temperatures outside reaching 116F. Fortunately, with rooms and a hallway covering three of the four sides, the room temperature was fine.
  7. I walked over to the playing hall, and then discovered I’d left my smart phone at the hotel room. Since I’d need it to communicate with students, I had to walk back to get it, and walk back again. Average walking time each way was 14 minutes.
  8. I got into the USATT check-in line, but so did everybody else. I spent another hour standing in line.
  9. I finally started practice with a student, but at this point I was exhausted. I’d spent over an hour standing in line at the hotel, spent nearly 45 minutes walking back and forth from the hotel to the playing hall to the hotel and back to the playing hall, and another hour in line checking in. My legs were now in full rebellion. My right knee was now bothering me, and that would get worse during the tournament - I'd start wearing a knee brace toward the end. 
  10. I got back to the hotel that night, and the brand new laptop still wasn’t working. I’d finally get it working the next day, but it would freeze up on and off all week, and often go into slow motion mode. It’s now at the Geek Squad at Best Buy undergoing a checkup.

USA Nationals Finals Videos

Kanak Jha, Lily Zhang Each Win Second Straight U.S. Table Tennis Titles
Here’s the article from ESPN.

Butterfly Presents Footwork Drills by Stefan Feth
Here’s the video (1:25). Stefan is the USA Men’s Coach and former member of the German National Team.

Strength Conditioning for Table Tennis
Here’s the articles from PingSkills

USATT Insider
Here’s the issue that came out yesterday.

Table Tennis in the Twilight Zone
Here’s the new article from Coach Jon.

Table Tennis Rabbit Hole
Here’s the article from a relatively new player who has made the plunge, but has some things to say about ratings and enjoying the sport.

Many Roles but Focus Remains Same - Ed Hogshead's Many Avenues to Help Grow US Table Tennis
Here’s the USATT article by Fatemeh Paryavi.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 19 (1991-1992)
Here's chapter sixteen! Or order your own print copies at TimBogganTableTennis.com, as well as Volume 19!

Bowmar Sports Sponsoring Alzheimer’s Fundraiser Tournament
Here’s info on the event taking place in Salt Lake City on July 29.

Matt Winkler’s 2017 US National Highlight Video
Here’s the video (4:20).

The 10 Points of the China Open 2017
Here’s the video (4:16).

Ding Ning vs Jun Mizutani Training
Here’s the video (3:11).

The Craziest Table Tennis ROLLERS of All Time!
Here’s the video (2:29).

Ma Long vs Ding Ning Funny Table Tennis
Here’s the video (4:39). It’s in Chinese and meaningless to me until you get to 1:42, where they compete to see who can knock badminton birdies off the table! Next they compete to see who can serve into a bucket. Finally, the play each other opposite-handed.

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July 12, 2017

USA Nationals
I’m still rather sick, and almost took today off as well. My stomach feels like there’s a hurricane and a tornado chucking 100mm ping-pong balls at each other. But I’ll try to go over briefly some of the highlights. I also have two hours of coaching tonight!!!

  • Here are the Nationals Results.
  • For the first time since they adopted the new ITTF coaching rule last year, I coached a match where the opposing coach signaled every serve! They followed the rules; there were no serious delays. The girl he was coaching would look back as she walked to the table each time, or would very briefly look back as she was about to serve, and he’d signal. Late in the match they got “lazy” and the coach started calling them out in Chinese (as verified by some Chinese players nearby), since neither I nor my student know Chinese (although he didn’t really know that, did he?). I considered watching the coach and deciphering his signals, or having a Chinese player sit near me and translate his coaching later on, but there was no point as there’d be no time to signal my player what the serve was going to be.
  • USATT ran eight seminars at the Nationals. Turnout, alas, wasn’t great. I taught two of them. Only one person showed for the “How to Set Up and Run a Junior Program,” which was disappointing – but he got a real personal session on it as I went through the 19-page presentation I put together. (I may put it online at some point.) The Serving Seminar I ran had seven players. Topics covered included:
  1. Can Ma Long move his racket substantially faster than you when he serves? Probably not.
  2. How to Create Spin
  3. Exercises to Increase Your Spin
  4. How to Create Deception
  5. How to Serve Low (to net and low bounce on other side)
  6. Depth
  7. Specific Serves
  8. How to Practice Serves
  9. Placement
  10. Fast, Deep Serves
  • At the Hall of Fame Inductions on Thursday night, Dell Sweeris was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award, and Bowie Martin Sr., Marcy Monasterial, and Scott Preiss were inducted into the USATT Hall of Fame.
  • I won Over 40 Hardbat for the fifth time. (I’ve won Hardbat Singles twice and Hardbat Doubles 13 times – but Ty Hoff and I, who have won it nine times, lost in the semifinals this time, to Dan Seemiller/Patty Martinez.) I normally use sponge, and hadn’t touched a hardbat racket since last December, but it’s like riding a bicycle – once you know how to do it, it never completely goes away. (Well, there was that 1.5-year period where I kept losing and nothing felt right, and then discovered I’d inexplicably changed my grip!) I’m not going to go into my matches here, but I did have one interesting tactical choice that was counter-intuitive, and yet worked.

    Because I like to attack every serve with my forehand (not easy at age 57), players often mix in short serves to my forehand and long ones to my backhand. This puts great strain on my footwork as I have to make an instant decision on which way to go. My counter-intuitive solution? When receiving, I stood an extra step away from the table, and a bit more to my left. This way I had little distance to go to cover the long serves to my backhand, and so could focus on the short serves to my forehand – meaning I got a very quick start in that direction. This more than compensated for the longer distance to get to them. I still had to strain to cover them, but this allowed me to receive more forehand than if I stood in a more conventional receive position.

    However, the physical strain of trying to cover the table with my forehand, when receiving, when serving, and during rallies, left me exhausted for days afterwards, and may have weakened me to the point of making susceptible to whatever is making me sick right now. Because it was so tiring I also went easy on practicing – but it was interesting that while other hardbat players were practicing strokes, I was on the back tables with a box of balls practicing my serves!

  • Due to my Over 40 Hardbat Final and coaching, I was at the playing hall late on Friday, and so missed the Men’s and Women’s Finals. Congrats to Kanak and Lily!!!

USATT and ITTF News Items
While I’ve been away, the USATT and ITTF news pages have had a zillion new items, so why not browse over them?

My Quest for Olympic Games 2020 - Kanak Jha
Here’s Kanak Jha’s funding page. He just won his second straight U.S. Men’s Singles title.

New Articles and Videos from Samson Dubina
Here are three new ones – I really like the “Footwork Detective” video, and you should browse over the 26 videos from his camp!

Table Tennis Coaching – Tips for Parents Part 4
Here’s the new installment from Expert Table Tennis.

Coachable
Here’s the new article by Coach Jon. And I have a shirt that matches his coffee mug!

Forehand Drive Technique
Here’s the article and video (2:39) from EmRatThich.

Ask the Coach
Questions answered at PingSkills – lots of new entries.

USOC Coaching Newsletter
Here’s the July edition.

9 Reasons Why Table Tennis is the Best Sport in the World
Here’s the article from Tom Lodziak.

Tom's Table Tennis Newsletter
Here’s the new one from Tom Lodziak.

Pong Universe Point of the Week
Here’s the video (25 sec) of Vladimir Samsonov vs. Chuang Chih-Yuan.

Ask A Pro Anything - Chen Meng
Here’s the ITTF video (5:55) from Adam Bobrow.

Thailand Game Show
Here’s the video (15:36) where a kid demos table tennis tricks on something like “Thailand’s Got Talent.”

For Sale: Ping Table
Here’s the cartoon!

***
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July 11, 2017

Sick as a Dog
I was supposed to start blogging again today, but when I woke up this morning my throat was on fire, my nose was completely stuffed up, and I felt as sick as a dog - and you know that I'm pretty sick when I use a cliché like that rather than come up with something more creative. I feel horrible about this, but I feel even more horrible on the inside. I'm going to need at least another day before I can start blogging again. However, here is the Tip of the Week, Learn Control First on Receive. (This was inspired by Stefan Feth's Return of Serve clinic at the USA Nationals.) 

June 30, 2017

Last Blog Until Tuesday, July 11
I leave for the USA Nationals early tomorrow morning (Sunday), returning next Sunday. As always, I don’t blog when I’m traveling – so next blog will be the Tuesday after I return, July 11. Until then, Pong On! (While I’m gone, why not browse the news pages at USATT, ITTF, and my sponsor, Butterfly?)

How You Can Support Table Tennis
There are a lot of ways you can help support our sport. Why not join in? Below are 15 ways you can do so. (Much of it is focused on USATT-related issues, but not all – and the same ideas apply locally or in other countries.)

  1. Donate to USA Table Tennis. “100% of the monies raised through the ‘Friends With Paddles’ program will be used to directly fund USATT’s National Team programming, including coaching, travel, training, participation in international tournaments, and direct athlete support.” If you are not a member of USATT, why not join?
  2. Donate to USATT Hall of Fame. “Interested in helping the Hall of Fame continue to fulfill its mission to honor the greatest players and contributors of the game?”
  3. Become a Certified Coach. What can be greater than passing on your years of knowledge? Plus, you learn when you teach!!! Note that the certification process is undergoing changes that will likely go online next month. ITTF Levels 1, 2, and 3 will likely be used for USATT State, Regional, and National coaching levels. Here is my recent USATT news item, Upcoming USATT Coaching Courses and Seminars, which includes info on upcoming ITTF courses in the U.S. and seminars at the USA Nationals. Here’s the Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook and Instructor’s Guide to Table Tennis. (I wrote both of these. At some point I’ll likely update and expand both.)
  4. Become a Certified Umpire. Here’s info on the various levels and requirements.
  5. Run Tournaments. You get to be in charge!!!
  6. Run a Club. Then join the club listing!
  7. Open a Full-Time Table Tennis Center. Ninety-three others have done it, so why not you? The Club Development Handbook might help.
  8. Run a League. Take your pick, a singles or a team league, rated or not rated.
  9. Run a Junior Program. I’m running a seminar at the USA Nationals, How to Set Up a Successful Junior Program. If you can’t make that, there’s info in my Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook.
  10. Recruit and Welcome New Players. Many new players show up at a club and nobody wants to talk to or hit with them – they are beginners!!! Well, we all were once.
  11. Volunteer with USATT. Here’s the USATT Committee listing.
  12. Blog or Send out Press Releases. The more exposure we get, the better. Let me know if you have something online, and I’ll likely link to it here.
  13. Buy Table Tennis Books. It’s a great way to support the table tennis writing community! Here are mine. Here are other recent ones by Dan Seemiller, Samson Dubina, Tahl Leibovitz, Tim Boggan, Guido Mina di Sospiro, Donn Olsen, and Ben Larcombe.
  14. Become a Big-Spending Equipment Junkie with USATT Sponsors.
  15. Participate as a Player. Most of you are probably already doing this, but the more you compete in tournaments, the more you help the organizers with needed funds – while improving your own game, winning prizes, and going up in rating!!!

SuperMicro USA Nationals
Here’s the home page for the event taking place July 3-8 in Las Vegas. Here’s where you can see the events, players, and results (which will go active when the tournament starts – until then you’ll need a password!). Follow the action on the USATT New Page! I’ll be there – if you see me, stop by and say hi!

Australia Open
Here’s the home page of the event to be held July 4-7 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Preliminaries are July 2-3.) There are already a number of news items.

PongMobile for Ratings
Want a better, faster way to check your rating and search for others? “PongMobile is a web search software for USATT players, ratings and tournament histories. It is the companion application for the avid table tennis competitor. PongMobile allows for an intuitive, quick and easy search experience. Get a free account today, add your favorite players and begin following their progress.”

Two Brothers
Here’s the video (13:45). “This is the story about two brothers . . . they’ve always been competitive in everything, career, women, money, but nothing as much as the game of ping-pong.” (See two cartoon movies below, near the end.)

Improve Your Serves with Some Solo Service Practice
Here’s the article from Tom Lodziak. Includes diagrams.

Yangyang Jia Table Tennis Lessons
Here are 14 video lessons. These have all gone up over the past month.

How to Play Competitive Ping Pong
Here are six steps from WikiHow.

Ask the Coach
Questions answered at PingSkills.

Chinese National Team Boycott: The Story So Far
Here’s the video (5:29).
BREAKING NEWS (added Friday night) - new video from EmRatThich: Will Ma Long be banned? (11:44).

US Olympians Kanak Jha and Lily Zhang Back to Defend Singles Crowns
Here’s the article by Richard Finn on the Upcoming USA Nationals.

Perusing the Paddle Palace Catalog
Here’s the article from Coach Jon.

DHS ITTF Top 10 - 2017 Japan Open
Here’s the video (4:53).

Videos from EmRatThich
Here’s his page, with new ones going up almost daily.

Adrian Crisan vs. 11-year-old Jason Li
Here’s a great rally (23 sec)! Crisan is a 5-time Olympian from Romania. Jason is rated 1775.

Attack vs Defense
Here’s the video (6:39).

Hungarian #4 Peter Fazekas
Here’s the video (14:10, a sequel to yesterday’s), where he is interviewed by Tahl Leibovitz, and plays Alexis Perez and Nicolas De Francesco. Videotape by Jules Apatini.

Ping-Pong Socks
Here they are!

Piano Pong Paddle and Other Pong Stuff
Here’s the picture, with lots of other ping-pong merchandise underneath from Pinterest.

Ultimate Table Tennis
“To play like a champ, learn from the Masters.”

Table Tennis is a Family Affair in the Jun Mizutani Household
Here’s the video (45 sec) of him watching as his wife (I presume) hits with their baby girl on the table. He’s ranked #6 in the world, the baby somewhere in the top 7.5 billion.

Man and Baby Pong – Another Family Affair
Here’s the picture, taken at MDTTC a few days ago by Carolyn Klinger.

Trick Shots

What's in a Ping Pong Ball?
Here’s the video (3:43) from HobbyKids. They do a bunch of weird table tennis stuff.

Spookiz Best Ping Pong Match Ever
Here’s the video (89 min). It’s a crazy kids’ cartoon that features table tennis. I browsed through it quickly, and the wild table tennis scenes take place in the first 30 sec, from 1:07 to 3:30, from 41:24 to 41:52, and from 42:31 to 45:00.

Sunny Bunnies Ping Pong Hero
Here’s the video (3:30 – link takes you 22 sec in, past the opening credits). It’s a series of short cartoons for kids, over 48 min long, but only the first features table tennis, the first 3:30.

Crazy Ponger
Here is the cartoon image – I wouldn’t want to play this guy!!!

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June 29, 2017

Table Tennis Game Variations
At the end of our camp yesterday the top juniors all got together and played a variation of Brazilian Teams I’ve never seen before. The normal rules for Brazilian Teams are simple – see below. But as I watched, a player lost a point – but stayed at the table. I asked why, and it turned out they had invented “Deuce Brazilian Teams,” where you play from deuce, i.e. have to win by two. So everyone gets to play at least two points on their turn, and it’s easier to stay up longer. It got me thinking about other game variations. Here are a few.

  • Brazilian Teams. Three or more to a team (though you can play with two). One player from each side goes up and plays a point. The winner stays, the loser goes to the end of his team’s line and the next player goes up. New player always serves. Games are generally to 31 or even 41 or more. Sometimes, if there’s a player stronger than the rest, you limit the number of points a player can win in a row and stay at the table. If you sweep the opposing team (or score 4 in a row), you are a hero. If you sweep them twice (or score 8 in a row), you are a superhero. Variation – Deuce Brazilian Teams, where instead of playing one point, players start out at deuce, and have to win by two, with the winner staying.
  • Up-Down Tables. Players pair up on the tables. They all play one game to 11, with no deuce – 11-10 wins. Winners move up, losers move down. Goal is to reach table #1 and stay there, or as close to that table as you can. If there’s an odd number, the loser on the last table practices serves the next round. This is great for all ages at camps. Sometimes, to quicken the pace, you play shorter games, perhaps to 7, or even start at deuce (have to win by two).
  • King of the Table. One player is “king,” others line up on other side. Challenger serves. If he loses the point, he goes to the end of the line and the next person comes up. If the Challenger wins the point, the King serves. Challenger has to win two points in a row to become King. Another variation the younger kids prefer is you only have to win one point to become King – so the King changes faster. Also, while it’s generally called “King of the Table,” we often call it “Captain” or “King or Queen” of the table or the girls rightfully object. How about Dictator of the Table?
  • Backspin Service Game. Players get five or ten serves each. You serve heavy backspin, usually high. If the ball bounces back into the net, you get one point. If it bounces back over the net and back onto your side on one bounce, without touching the net, it’s three points. If it bounces back over the net but takes more than one bounce, or nicks the net in either direction, it’s two points. This is my personal favorite, and all of my students learn this.
  • One-Shot Pong. This is for when you have a top player against a relative beginner. The stronger player has only one shot to win the point – he must win the point outright on his serve and on his serve return. If the beginner returns the serve, or returns the receive against his serve, he wins the point. (Another variation – all the beginner has to do is touch the receive of his serve! Generally the stronger player can loop or flip at wide angles for aces.) Other variations, depending on the difference in level, is the stronger player gets to serve and do one shot, and/or receive and one shot.
  • Doubles. Or, if you want to get creative, Triples!!!
  • Opposite Hand and/or Opposite Grip. Self-explanatory.
  • Mini-Tables and/or Mini-Rackets. Self-explanatory.
  • Hardbat and Sandpaper. Self-explanatory.
  • Cell Phone Pong. Self-explanatory.
  • Jungle Pong. This is a favorite of the kids, who often play this non-stop on break. You get a group together, and number themselves in order, so each player knows who he goes after. Then player 1 serves. Player 2 (and all subsequent players) have to let the ball come off the table and bounce on the floor, then he hits it back on the table, on either side, and the next player does the same. When a player fails to make a return, he’s out. This continues until you have a champion.
  • Cup Game. This is more for kids. They stack paper cups into pyramids or walls – “The Great Pyramid of Egypt” or “The Great Wall of China” – then they line up and knock them down as I feed multiball, 2-3 shots per player, taking turns. A variation of this is to stack ten cups in a pyramid and everyone gets up to ten shots to see how many they can knock over.
  • Frog Game. Another one for kids. I have a giant rubber frog I keep at the club – “Froggy” is the club’s unofficial mascot. I put him on the table, divide the kids into two teams, and as I feed multiball, they try to hit poor Froggy, keeping score. You can use just about anything as a target.
  • Worm Juice. Another one for the kids, though adults often join in this one. You put a bottle of Gatorade or similar liquid on the table, and say it’s squeezed worm juice. Kids take turns trying to hit it as you feed multiball. If they hit it, you have to drink it. Best part – you get to mock them as you feed the balls!!! (But they get the last laugh when they hit it.)

China Open Chinese Player Withdrawals and Aftermath

  • Chinese Men's Team Withdrawn from Australian Open, from ITTF. “It is unfortunate that the decision was made to withdraw the entire men’s team of Zhang Jike, Fan Zhendong, Xu Xin, Yan An, Liang Jingkun and Lin Gaoyuan from the Australian Open, despite only two of the players (Fan Zhendong and Xu Xin) being involved in last week’s incident at the China Open.”
  • Table Tennis Authorities Remind Players Who is Boss, from SupChina. “After China’s sports authorities relieved much-loved national table tennis team coach Liu Guoliang of his coaching duties in a sideways promotion to become vice president of the Chinese Table Tennis Association, three players protested, walking out of their matches at the World Tour China Open in Chengdu on June 23. The action caused a nationwide outcry online — many people criticized the “Soviet” nature of China’s sports administration that prioritizes the system over individual talent, although a few commenters accused the three protesting players of putting politics above sports.”
  • China Seeks Ping-Pong Diplomacy to Defuse Coaching Row, from Reuters. “The removal of China's top table tennis coach has stirred up rare tensions in the country's sporting world, prompting a backlash from leading players and fans, and drawing the gaze of the country's censors. Fans of table tennis, China's unofficial national sport, flocked online to vent their anger over the removal of the national team's popular head coach, Liu Guoliang, who stepped down from his position last week.”

Ask the Coach
Questions answered at PingSkills.

Agility Training for Table Tennis
Here’s the video (90 sec).

USATT Insider
Here’s the new issue that came out yesterday.

Jennifer Yue Wu Featured in Metro Sports
Here’s the article with pictures of the two-page spread for July/August. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

Across the Net: Melton Table Tennis
Here’s the newsletter from this Australian club.

Harimoto Tomokazu's Birthday (14 Years Old) at T2Apac Event
Here’s the video (2:45) – it’s in Japanese (I think), but with some English sub-titles. The Japanese whiz kid’s birthday party was attended by just about everyone – Jiang Jialiang, Ovtcharov, Samsonov, Persson, Maze, Mizutani, Ding Ning, and many more. They even sing Happy Birthday – in English!

Ping-Pong vs. Table Tennis
Here’s the video (2:33). It’s set to music, with French subtitles, but it’s mostly visual.

Hungarian #4 Peter Fazekas vs Paralympic Champion Tahl Leibovitz
Here’s the video (10:05), from Jules Apatini. Lots of slow motion replay.

England vs Greece Cheerleaders Routine
Here’s the video (2:27) – cheerleaders for table tennis?!!!

Novak Djokovic Playing Table Tennis
Here’s the new video (5:10). He’s using a hardbat. Can you imagine some of his topspins if he had, say, Tenergy?

How to Water a Plant via Ping-Pong Balls
Here’s the video (1:35) of a Rube Goldberg device that features lots of ping-pong balls.

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