Larry Hodges's blog

February 22, 2021

Tip of the Week
Rote vs. Random Drills.

National Collegiate Table Tennis Association Hosts Townhall Meeting - Open to All
MEETING IS TONIGHT (Monday) at 9:30PM. Here's the Facebook info page. They will discuss various table tennis issues, but there will likely be a focus on the USATT-NCTTA ongoing battle over the NCTTA's position on the USATT board (see below). From the page, "Thank you to the hundreds of you that have supported NCTTA with emails to USATT. Many of you asked to have a zoom meeting, so we have organized it! We will present to you the why's and what's and any updates and answer any questions too. Any USATT or NCTTA player, volunteer, coach, alumni is welcome to attend!" Here is the direct link to the meeting. Remember, the meeting is open to All, not just college players. (There will be USATT board members present. I will attend, hopefully just to listen.)

The Ongoing USATT-NCTTA War
[Skip this if not interested in such internal USATT fighting. See the segment above if you want to discuss or hear others discuss the situation with USATT and NCTTA. There will be USATT board members present. Here's my blog on this topic last week.]

As noted in previous blogs, USA Table Tennis started a "war" with the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association a year ago when, after 13 years of having a spot on the USATT board of directors, they suddenly decided that NCTTA no longer qualified as a "National Organization," and so no longer qualified to hold a board seat. As also noted in previous blogs, USATT is completely wrong on this. (Here's the NCTTA take on this. USATT has no such public statement.)

To reiterate, here is what the USATT bylaws say about the National Organization position, which are essentially word for word taken from the Ted Stevens Act (passed by congress), making it illegal not to follow them (bolds are mine):

5.1.b.2: National Organization Members. National Organization members are those amateur sports organizations that register as a national organization and which conducts, on a level of proficiency appropriate for the selection of amateur athletes to represent the United States in international amateur athlete competition, a national program or regular national amateur athletic competition in the sport of Table Tennis.

NCTTA conducts the National Collegiate Championships each year. Is it, "on a level of proficiency" appropriate for the selection of amateur athletes to represent the United States in international amateur athlete competition? Since the best college players in the country compete in it, the level of "proficiency" is obviously high enough. Here are the top players at the 2020 Championships (alas, it was cancelled due to the pandemic):

Men

  1. Baiyu "Bob" Chen (Ohlone College) 2017 US Open Men's Doubles Champion, 2688 rated (previously over 2700)
  2. Yijun "Tom" Feng (NYU), 2015 US Men's Singles Champion, 2016 USA Olympic Team, USA National Team Member, 2667 rated (previously over 2700)
  3. Sharon Alguetti (Indiana University) USA National Team member, 2622 rated (previously over 2700)
  4. Gal Alguetti (Indiana University) USA National Team member, 2618 rated

Women

  1. Jiaqi Lin (Texas Wesleyan University), 2489 rated
  2. Angela Guan (UC Berkeley) USA World Team member, 2433 rated
  3. Yixiao Wang (San Jose State University), 2401 rated
  4. Qiao Jiao (Ohlone College) 2369 rated

These are basically the best college players in the country. (Some of the other champions who have won singles in recent years include Lily Zhang, Ariel Hsing, Wu Yue, Jishan Liang, and Kai Zhang.) So yeah, NCTTA obviously qualifies on "level of proficiency." (Note that some players who compete in the US Collegiate Championships may not be eligible for the World University Games, so you simply remove those players in the selection process. If USATT doesn't like this procedure, then they can simply request that NCTTA run them in a different fashion - but that doesn't change the "level of proficiency.")

And yet, USATT, or rather the chair of the board, Richard Char (or whoever is advising him), continues to insist they do not qualify. There was no board vote on this; a year ago, Char apparently ruled, as the chair, that they were not eligible. Despite constant requests, no real reason has ever been given. When asked, invariably, there one of three responses:

  • "They do not qualify." They simply assert it over and over without giving a reason.
  • "Our lawyer has ruled they are not eligible." Yes, when you bring in a lawyer to argue your case, he is going to argue your case. The key thing is they also have not given a reason.
  • "NCTTA does not conduct a selection process for selecting athletes to the World University Games." This is probably the worst one of all, as it is blatantly misleading. The bylaws and the Ted Stevens Act do not require this. What is required is running such an event "...on a level of proficiency appropriate for the selection of amateur athletes to represent the United States in international amateur athlete competition." At this point, there's nobody from USATT who doesn't know these words, since it has been repeated to them over and Over and OVER. (The people who wrote the Ted Stevens Act weren't stupid; they had good reasons to word it in this way, but that would require an entire new blog, so I won't get into that.)

So once again, NCTTA obviously qualifies. This is a completely unnecessary and dumb war, brought on by USATT's internal politics, to the detriment of our sport. NCTTA literally did nothing to deserve this.

And so what is USATT doing? They are "negotiating" NCTTA's spot on the board. They are trying to get certain agreements in return. They are holding a hammer over NCTTA's head, and essentially are saying, "Do this, or else." It's coercion and bullying. (Some from NCTTA think they should just walk away from USATT at this point. Yep, USATT is splitting our sport.)

Since NCTTA clearly qualifies, the appropriate, legal, and smart thing for USATT is to immediately place them on the board. Char could simply rule from the chair that they are eligible (just as he previously ruled they were not), but that's not likely to happen. So why don't they just have a vote? The chair (Char) sets the agenda, and so far, he won't put it on the agenda. When someone made a motion to put NCTTA back on the board, Char ruled (correctly) that it was invalid since he hadn't put it on the agenda - and then refused to allow such a vote. The only other way to get it on the agenda is if a majority of the board (five of the current eight) request it. If Char keeps blocking this, eventually that will happen. I think it'll pass somewhat easily.

I said it's the smart thing, because right now USATT is actively alienating its membership with their internal politicking on this issue. They already alienated many of the National Team with their doings regarding the US National Team Selection process, which I blogged about previously. Now they are actively fighting NCTTA and their many thousands of current and past members. These members play at clubs all over the country, and are outspoken. USATT already had a bad reputation, and they are making it worse. For what??? There is no upside.

From the USATT side, some think they are simply negotiating, requiring NCTTA to run a World University Games Trials (which NCTTA was already planning to do), but with an overseeing panel, half of them from USATT - giving USATT possible veto power on anything the panel wants to do. If USATT wants to do this, then fine - but negotiate after they have put NCTTA back on the board, and stop using that to coerce and bully NCTTA. And stop claiming it is required by the bylaws or Ted Stevens Act, because it is not.

The NCTTA position had already started a four-year term early in 2017, through the end of 2020, so they lost their last year on the board. This implies NCTTA qualified as a National Organization and for that four-year term. USATT had no right to undeclare this in mid-term, thereby taking away the final year of NCTTA's position on the board. Even if they believed that NCTTA no longer qualified, that would require a board vote. If the board chair can arbitrarily make such rulings, then he could also kick off any other member of the board without a vote, simply claiming without reason that they are not eligible.

NCTTA has filed a grievance against USATT, but that's a long, slow process that could go on for a long time. I'm a little leery of that, actually - a USATT Board-appointed Grievance Committee is judging a grievance against the USATT Board that appointed them. A simpler solution that would end all this would be to have the USATT board vote on this, which would likely end this silly "war" and the grievance process. What are they waiting for???

The irony is that USATT can't win on this issue. If they "win" and manage to keep NCTTA off the board, then they have lost much credibility while tearing our sport apart. If they "lose," they lose. Their best option is to simply do the right thing, put NCTTA back on the board, and maybe after a year tempers will have cooled. I hope they don't dream that it's going to be business as always with NCTTA (and others) after this mess they've created. They are going to have to let things cool down for quite some time, and they will have to work to get credibility again. 

And once again, I have no connection to NCTTA.  I am simply infuriated at USATT's actions on this issue.

History is watching, and it will name names. 

National Collegiate Table Tennis Association 2020 Annual Report
Here it is!

Poll and Discussion on USATT's Expanded Board
Here's the Facebook page, where USATT board member Thomas Hu has set up a poll and discussion about how USATT should expand their board. USOPC now requires the USATT board to have 33% athlete representation on the board, so they will be adding positions. Here's what Thomas wrote of the poll and discussion:

"I am biased because I have been working with kids in table tennis for the last five years. I understand their voice has not been heard and there is a lack of mechanism to fully protect their vulnerability. However, I want to hear from you. In light of the necessity to change the USATT bylaw to satisfy the new regulation requiring minimum 33.33% athlete representation, what do you think is the best action USATT should take with respect to the board structure? Please vote and share with everyone your reasons. Your opinion matters."

USATT Coaches Meeting
We had another USATT Coaches Zoom meeting this past Friday, at noon (eastern time) for about 45 minutes. They are now every Friday, with information and the link normally going up the day before on the USA Table Tennis Coaches Facebook group. Eight coaches attended - USATT High Performance Director Sean O'Neill (who runs the meetings), myself, Britt Salter, Jay Crystal, Mike Lauro, Sameh Awadalla, Jasna Rather, and Gao Jun. Here's a group picture. The focus of the discussion was coaching beginners.

Weekend Coaching
We're into week two of our return to junior group training. I was at the club all day on Sunday, arriving around 11AM and not leaving until 7:30PM. I ran one of the group sessions, and assisted in two others. Between sessions I went to the back room and did some writing - nope, not table tennis, worked on a science fiction story, my "other" career.

During one of the sessions we focused on half-table games. Everyone put a towel or jacket on the table to block off half the table. Then they'd play games, using just half the table. Some would be crosscourt backhand side to backhand side, or forehand side to forehand side, others would down the line, forehand to backhand side and vice versa. We also played some games where one side only played half the table, while the other side had to play the whole table. It was a nice change for the kids, who could focus on developing one side of their game.

On Sunday night at 8PM, after all the sessions were done, MDTTC had an online Zoom meeting about the junior program. Attending were 26 coaches, parents, and players. They went over the future of the program, Covid restrictions, and other topics.

Meanwhile, here's my new T-Rex Playing Table Tennis outfit - hat, mask, and shirt!!!

New from Ti Long

New from Samson Dubina

Learning Incredible Ghost Serve - Super Backspin
Here's the video (5 min) from the Sri-Lankan TTA.

10x Home Table Tennis Challenges
Here's the video (4:08) from Eli Baraty.

Weekly Training Lessons - Last Moment Action
Here's the ITTF video (5:14), part of their High Performance & Development series.

Zhang Jike - Career Highlights
Here's the video (3:08) of the two-time World Men's Singles Champion, two-time World Cup Men's Singles Champion, and 2012 Men's Singles Olympic Gold Medalist. He is the only player in history to win five major titles in a row (singles at the Worlds, World Cup, and Olympics).

Dimitrij Ovtcharov at Age 9
Here's the video (53 sec), just posted by Dimitrij himself.

New from Steve Hopkins

Table Tennis Restart
Here's the article by Coach Jon. "Even with my own private training studio, I’m starting to miss table tennis. I’ve probably been able to play more this year than most people; but I think it’s about time to bust loose on the greater world of our sport. Coaching has been going well; and I get to play competitive matches on a regular basis. Still, I was never meant to be a hermit, even a table tennis hermit."

ITTF News

Can Aruna Quadri Become the First African Table Tennis Player to Win an Olympics Medal?
Here's the article.

Texas SQT - San Antonio TTC, Vlad Farcas
Here's the USATT article by Joshua Dyke.

Crazy Rallies and Shots from Table Tennis Central

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

Meet Stephen Curry's Unlikeliest Coach
Here's the article from the New York Post, featuring Soo Yeon Lee

Jimmy Butler's 50th Birthday Video Celebration
Here's the video (20:14) of the four-time US Men's Singles Champion and two-time Olympian.

Ma Long and Dimitrij Ovtcharov Playing Left-Handed
Here's the video (11 sec)!

What Did They Do With That Ping-Pong Ball!!!
Here's the video (6 sec)!

Frozen Ice Racket Challenge
Here's the video (6:17) from Pongfinity!

***
Send us your own coaching news!

February 15, 2021

Tip of the Week
Pushing Short: When to Learn?

=>BEGIN USATT SECTION<=
Ongoing USATT Sagas
I'm resigned to the fact that I'm going to need to have a USATT segment in every blog, just to keep up with all the crazy things going on. If you have no interest in USATT matters, skip over this segment - though you might find the final item, the $200,000 arbitration case (technically, $170,000-$200,000), a doozy. (Keep in mind that when I speak of USATT, I'm speaking of their leadership as a whole. There are USATT people who are trying to fix these problems.) Here's the latest - and I hope there's nothing to write about next week.

  • USATT-NCTTA Grievance. I blogged about this in last week's blog. Here's the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association's news item on this, The USATT Motion and Grievance. It's still mind-boggling to me that USATT has chosen to pick this fight with NCTTA, one they will almost for certain lose, leading to great animosity toward USATT, both from NCTTA and their thousands of members, and others. Heck, even if USATT somehow "won" the grievance, they lose, due to the huge animosity they are causing. (NCTTA obviously qualifies, as I've pointed out in past blogs, but of course you never know for certain what a few people on a panel might decide.)

    One thing I've verified - there was no board vote on the apparent USATT decision that NCTTA no longer qualified for the National Organization position on the board - apparently it was just a ruling from the chair. (If there was a vote, it'd be in the USATT minutes.) If so, there's nothing I see in the bylaws that allow this. The board chair can't on his own decide who is or is not eligible for the board, or he'd essentially have absolute power. At the time of this apparent ruling, there were only five board members. There are now eight - four new ones and one who left. I think if they were to actually vote on this, they'd grant NCTTA their position, since they obviously qualify, just as they have for the past 13 years. But who knows what politicking is going on behind the scenes on this issue?

    I think this is a good time to reprint the email I sent to the USATT Board of Directors two weeks ago, before a board meeting where they might have resolved this conflict, but chose not to:

    "I've been in this sport for 45 years and I've attended about 100 USATT board meetings. And it's with a feeling of déjà vu that I watch as USATT seems on the verge of making the same mistakes as so many past boards. Apparently, USATT is seriously planning on leaving the National Organization position vacant, even though NCTTA obviously fulfills the requirements of the bylaws. If you do so, you will make a huge number of enemies and be rightly and widely criticized. Once again USATT will be split and once again it will be doing endless damage control, both on this issue and on other issues that are the inevitable result of dividing our sport rather than uniting it and focusing on developing it. And for what? You will gain absolutely nothing by doing this. I've seen one board of directors after another do these same self-destructive things, often with the best of intentions, and afterwards all they can do is defend the decision while wondering, "What were we thinking?" Here's the key thing to remember: We're all in this together. Dividing the sport is not the way to go. I implore you to not go down that path, because once you do, it's very hard to change course."

  • Emails to USATT. I have been told a lot of people have been emailing USATT about NCTTA and the proposed bylaws, overwhelmingly in favor of NCTTA and against the contradictory proposed bylaws. I know of a number of people who sent such emails. Willy Leparulo, president of NCTTA, also said that NCTTA members and others have sent large numbers of emails to USATT. Hopefully, the board will carefully consider these emails before making any decisions.
  • Board Choosing Athlete Reps. I wrote extensively about the contradictory proposed bylaws last week. There's another serious problem in the proposed bylaws - USATT wants the Board to choose an athlete rep. This is both a seeming USOPC violation as well as making no sense. An athlete rep selected by athletes is an athlete rep, but an athlete rep selected by the board is a board rep. Here's how Kagin Lee (former USATT Rules Chair) explained the problem (with his permission to quote - and I believe he has written an email to the board on this issue.):

    "The proposed section 11.11 describes a new Athlete Director position, including this text: "The Board shall appoint the initial 10 Year+ Athlete to fill the vacancy and serve a 4 year term." If passed, this bylaw would transfer power from the athletes and give it to the board. It would be a clear violation of the USOPC bylaws, section 8.5.3.b: "All athlete representatives (10 Year and 10 Year+) will be directly elected by the pool of athletes who meet the requirements as 10 Year Rule Athlete Representatives for that NGB." In order to serve as an Athlete Director, you must (1) be an eligible athlete, and (2) be elected by the athletes. Someone who is appointed by the board, rather than the athletes, is by definition not an Athlete Director. The board should not be permitted to make this appointment."

    This, of course, is in addition to their violating the USATT bylaws recently by trying to appoint a third athlete rep to the board, even listing him on the USATT Board page. (The current bylaws specify the board shall have only two athlete reps, so adding a third violated those bylaws.)

  • Board Terms of Office. Kagin also pointed out that USATT seems to be playing somewhat loose with board terms of office. I may get into this more later (Kagin wrote more about this), but briefly, when USOPC forced the previous USATT board to resign, the new board came in and took their place. Presumably, if someone resigns and you take their place, you finish out their term. Based on that, at least two of these terms have already ended. So it comes down to whether they finished out the terms of their predecessors (as is usually the norm and seems required by the bylaws), or whether they all start from scratch with new four-year terms.
  • "New" Proposed Bylaws? [I added the following to last week's blog a day after it went up.] A day after I put up my blog last Monday, USATT put up a new news item, linked to an apparently "new" set of proposed bylaws, with no explanation for the change. So I had to change the link here. However, the new version still limits the board to ten members and athlete reps at three, so they have not addressed the problem - explained below [last week's blog] - of contradictory bylaws that seem to be used to block NCTTA from their legal position on the board. I am not sure what, if any, changes they made to this new version, and the news item strangely doesn't explain how these proposed bylaws are different than the previous ones. Are we really supposed to have to go over them, word by word, to try to figure out what new changes they are proposing from the version they posted a few days ago? I considered emailing them - again - but I'm starting to feel like a babysitter. I'm tired of wasting time on what shouldn't even be an issue. I'll never understand why USATT chose to create this huge self-inflicted mess by starting a "war" with NCTTA, one which makes no sense and that they are unlikely to win.
  • High Performance Committee. Bruce Liu resigned from his position as chair of the High Performance Committee on Oct. 27, 2020, partially in protest of actions by the USATT CEO. It's been almost four months, and there still is no chair. I've heard they plan to just operate without a chair for the foreseeable future. I'm still mulling this one over. How can they even create an agenda for a meeting without a chair? The USATT bylaws are clear on this: "Section 9.2. Assignments. Committee agendas shall be developed by the Committee Chair in consultation with the appropriate members of management and with the input of other directors." (Italics are mine.)
  • $200,000 Arbitration. USATT lost an arbitration to former High Performance Director Jörg Bitzigeio (losing on five of six counts), but I'll write more about that some other time. Jörg had claimed USATT violated his contract and resigned for this reason. The $170,000-$200,000, which were awarded by the arbitrator, included Jörg's legal fees. It doesn't include USATT's own legal costs, so the actual cost to USATT was likely over $200,000. USATT had the opportunity to go to mediation, which likely would have saved them money, but turned it down. This could lead to severe financial problems. This actually happened three months ago, but somehow was kept secret. How many other sports would be involved in such a major case and be able to keep it secret?

=>END USATT SECTION<=

Weekend Coaching
This Sunday had our first group junior sessions since early December. But there were severe precautions, the number one being that everyone - EVERYONE!!! - had to wear a mask at all times, including players and coaches at the table. This was new, but I got used to it rather quickly. Besides, I had the best mask of anyone, my T-Rex Playing Table Tennis mask. (It was too tight at first, and was hurting my ears - and then I made the rather obvious discovery that it was adjustable, and then it fit perfectly.) One girl made the interesting point that the mask wasn't realistic - "Dinosaurs weren't purple!" she insisted. So . . . a purple dinosaur wasn't realistic, but a dinosaur playing ping-pong, no problem? Because we still have to limit how many players can be in a session, we had them in four groups. I worked in two sessions with two of the groups, mostly the younger kids.

I also did a sports psychology session last Thursday with one of our kids. (I'm not a sports psychologist, but have a lot of experience in it, as a coach and player, from reading, and from numerous sessions at the Olympic Training Center many years ago when I was at various times the manager/director/one of the coaches for the Resident Training Center Table Tennis Program in Colorado Springs for four years.) I used as a reference two books:

First, I went over a number of sports psychology examples and principles. Then I gave an assigned reading: I marked off about 2/3 of the chapters in Dora's book to be read in the next two weeks, and then we'll discuss the "Four R's" from the book:

  1. Reaction (use the 80-10-10 rule - 80% neutral, 10% celebration, 10% challenged response, i.e. instead of "That was terrible!" try "You can make that!")
  2. Recover (recover from the point, relax, etc., with nine methods listed)
  3. Ready (this is where you do your tactical thinking, with a very good listing of things to think about - "Think before you play")
  4. Ritual (to prepare mentally for the next point)

As a long-term assignment, I asked him to read the second book as well. It's longer, about 190 pages, and packed with info. I gave him six weeks to read this one, with one stipulation - any section he doesn't feel applies to him he could mark with a red X, and skip that section. Later we'll go over it and see if I agree with him. I also gave him a multi-colored pen and told him to feel free to mark up the books with notes in the margins.

USATT Coaches Meeting
We had another USATT Coaches Zoom meeting this past Friday, at noon (eastern time) for about an hour. Six coaches attended - USATT High Performance Director Sean O'Neill (who runs the meetings), myself, Dan Rutenberg, Dave Fullen, Sameh Awadalla, and Britt Salter. Here's a group picture, and here's video of the meeting (57:43). Discussions included Stupa Analytics (see segment below) and the next step for USA Coaching Classes. We talked about what makes a good coach - as others pointed out, not all top players become good coaches, and not all good coaches started out as elite players. My input on this was that while some top players are students of their own game, while others are students of the game, period. The latter are the top players who become top coaches. As to non-elite players who become top coaches, they too have to become students of the game - but that means more than just watching videos. It means going to top training centers to observe elite training sessions, perhaps volunteering to assist (at least with the lower-level players - they might not yet trust you with the elite ones!), and so on.

An elite player may know what it takes to be a top player, but might not remember much of how he got there - it might have been 15 years or more since he was a beginner, and may not remember much of it, plus he was only a kid at the time. He also might not really know how to fix technique problems with most players, since he likely started with good technique, and so while he knows what a player should do, he might have trouble finding ways to fix a player's technique to make it correct. A non-elite player may have a better understanding of the struggles to develop their game and fix bad technique, but won't have the experience of watching the development of top players unless he goes out of his way to see it.

Stupa Analytics
Here's the new version, available in the Google App Store. USATT High Performance Director Sean O'Neill wrote "I tested in last week and there are many new and exciting stats that aren't available in the standard version. Ball Speed, a new heat map of shots, etc." Here's a USATT news item on Stupa Analytics from last year that explains how they analyze your game for you.  

Liu Guoliang's Instruction Course
Here's the video (2:58), featuring Lily Zhang and Adriana Diaz.

New from Samson Dubina

New from Ti Long

Short Table Tennis Touch in Motion
Here's the video (36 sec) from eBaTT.

Forehand Flick and Follow Up with a Forehand Topspin from the Middle
Here's the video (27 sec) from Nick Li TTA.

Chinese Backhand Flick Serve Return
Here's the video (2:20) from inMotion Table Tennis.

Weekly Training Lessons - The Business Card
Here's the ITTF video (4:23) - where "The Business Card" is a serve where you send the opponent a message.

How Table Tennis Can Change The World
Here's the video (15:10) from TEDx Talks.

Nikhil Kumar from Valley Christian
Here's the video (7:22) from 49ers Cal-Hi Sports, featuring US star and national team member Nikhil Kumar, who just turned 18.  

Why China Dominates the World of Table Tennis?
Here's the article from the News Interpretation.

The Evolution of the Table Tennis Racket: From 50 cm Long Handles to Boosters (and Everything in Between)
Here's the article. It's from 2017, but I found it pretty interesting.

Harmeet Desai Hopes to Break into Top 50 Rankings in 2021
Here's the article and interview on the world #73 from India, from The Hindu.

New from Steve Hopkins

USATT News

ITTF News

Sally's U19 Taiwan Team Qualifications
Here's the article by Sally Moyland.

Table Tennis Canada National Team Newsletter Feb 2021
Here it is.

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

Man and Robot Break World Record for Most Ping Pong Balls Hit with Nunchucks in 1 Minute
Here's the article and video (3:03)!

Bored Lad Creates Incredible 'Sport' In Lockdown
Here's the video (3:26). It's official, we've been stuck inside too long!

Hand Switch Pong
Here's the video (22 sec) - can you count the hand-switches by Tahl Leibovitz (near side)?

Hop Pong!
Here's the video (14 sec) - "Champions don't do different things. Champions do things differently."

Funny Pics of Dogs Playing Ping Pong
Here's the page, with both pictures and animated gifs!

Ping Pong Player Cartoons
Here's the page!

When the Cat is Away...
Here's the cartoon!

***
Send us your own coaching news!

February 8, 2021

Tip of the Week
Locking Up Your Opponents.

USATT Board of Directors Seeks Applications for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee
Here's the USATT news item. Let's start with something positive!

USATT and NCTTA and Bylaws, Oh My!
The next three segments involve lots of USATT issues and politics. If you have no interest in these issues and battles between USATT and the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association, feel free to skip ahead! This blog starts with a LOT of USATT stuff, but there's plenty other things afterwards. 

USATT Board of Directors Seek Member Comment on Proposed Amendments to the Bylaws
Here is the USATT news item. (NOTE - on Wednesday, Feb. 10, USATT put up a new news item, linked to an apparently "new" set of proposed bylaws, with no explanation for the change. So I had to change the link here. However, the new version still limits the board to ten members and athlete reps at three, so they have not addressed the problem - explained below - of contradictory bylaws that seem to be used to block NCTTA from their legal position on the board. I am not sure what, if any, changes they made to this new version, and the news item strangely doesn't explain how these proposed bylaws are different than the previous ones. Are we really supposed to have to go over them, word by word, to try to figure out what new changes they are proposing from the version they posted a few days ago? I considered emailing them - again - but I'm starting to feel like a babysitter. I'm tired of wasting time on what shouldn't even be an issue. I'll never understand why USATT chose to create this huge self-inflicted mess by starting a "war" with NCTTA, one which makes no sense and that they are unlikely to win.) 

If you have a comment on this, you are asked to email USATT directly, and your email will be forwarded to the board of directors. (It's best to page down to the end and click on this: Download the full "USA Table Tennis Board of Directors Seeks Member Comment on Proposed Amendments to the Bylaws" here.) The issue has major implications for certain groups, in particular the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association.

I've been rather involved in this issue since I had pointed out the serious problems with these bylaw proposals in the chat box at the recent USATT board meeting (see next segment) and in previous blogs. The only purpose of some of the language in the proposed bylaws seems to be to set up a roadblock to keep NCTTA from their long-time seat on the board, even if they qualify for the position, as they have for roughly the last 13 years. Here is my email from last Thursday, Feb. 4, to the USATT Board of Directors - and skip ahead to paragraphs four and five if you want to ignore the "wonky" parts and get right to the "What does this mean" part:

Dear USATT Board,

I have gone over the proposed bylaws carefully. My main reaction is, "Is this for real?" You don't have to be a member of Mensa to see the contradictory nature of these bylaws, and the insidious way they "allow" USATT to illegally bypass the Ted Stevens Act of 1978 and make sure that there is no National Organization Director on the USATT board, such as NCTTA.

The Ted Stevens Act and our own bylaws (see 7.6.b.5, with essentially the same language) require USATT to seat a National Organization Director on the board if one qualifies. Let's suppose NCTTA does qualify. (They obviously do, but for now, that's a separate issue.) Then the USATT bylaws REQUIRES that USATT place their representative on the board as National Organization Director. It would be a bylaw violation NOT to seat them.

But the proposed bylaws state explicitly, in 7.5, that the board shall be made up of TEN members. It also requires that 1/3 shall be athlete reps, as now required by USOPC. Section 7.6.b.4.a of the proposed bylaws specify that, beyond the two Athlete Directors, "There shall be one additional 10 Year+ Athlete Director or at large Athlete Director." That limits the number of Athlete reps on the board to a maximum of THREE.

What does this mean? It means that if you do seat NCTTA, you would have ten board members, as the bylaws specify. But then you would also have to have four Athlete Reps, in order to keep the number at 1/3 or more. To do so, you would have to:

  1. Have four athlete reps, which violate the proposed bylaws;
  2. Go to eleven board members, which violate the proposed bylaws.

Let's suppose NCTTA qualifies for the National Organization position, as per our bylaws. Then these proposed bylaws make it a bylaw violation NOT to seat NCTTA, and a bylaw violation if you DO seat NCTTA.

So I fall back on my original thought - "Is this for real?"

May I once again respectfully point out that, unless you want to eliminate one of the current positions on the board, you will have to expand the board to at least eleven members, and allow up to four athlete reps?

-Larry Hodges

I had a short email exchange with the USATT lawyer on this afterwards, but nothing that added to the discussion - the USATT argument is that since NCTTA is not currently on the board, they can put it directly into the bylaws that there will be a maximum of ten board members and three athlete reps, ignoring the contradictory nature of these bylaws and how this essentially sets up a roadblock to keep NCTTA off the board (since if they ever fill that tenth spot, they'd need a fourth athlete rep and therefore an 11th spot on the board), even if they qualify. (I'm also not sure if it would be appropriate to post copies of the lawyer's emails. If he asks me to, I will post our entire exchange.) But here's an excerpt I wrote that further explains the issue.

Let's suppose NCTTA qualifies for the National Organization position, as per our bylaws. Then these proposed bylaws make it a bylaw violation NOT to seat NCTTA, and a bylaw violation if you DO seat NCTTA. You are setting up contradictory bylaws. You are literally setting up a case where you will have to get a 2/3 majority to change the bylaws just to follow the bylaws. This puts tremendous pressure on the board to agree that neither NCTTA nor other groups that might be considered National Organizations actually qualify (thereby violating our bylaws and the Ted Stevens Act), since to agree they qualify would mean they would have to change the bylaws. If a majority of the board agrees NCTTA qualifies, but you can’t get 2/3 to change the bylaws for this, then you have the worst case – NCTTA has to be given their position or you break your bylaws and the Ted Stevens Act, and if you do, you break your bylaws.  

I think we can agree that setting up such contradictory bylaws is not best practices. The statement by the USOPC lawyer about 1/3 athlete reps among those actually seated does not mean he was telling us to create contradictory bylaws that make it impossible to follow the Ted Stevens Act (or our own bylaws) unless we change our bylaws.

The irony is that fixing the problem is extremely simple – just don’t cap the number of board members at ten or the number of athlete reps at three. All that does is make it a bylaw violation to follow the Ted Stevens Act or to follow our own bylaws. There is no downside to this, unless the intent is literally to make it more difficult to seat a National Organization that otherwise qualifies for the board. Is there an argument for WHY we would want to cap these numbers in the bylaws at ten and three, thereby setting up such contradictory bylaws? Or do you agree that we should solve the problem in this simple way, by capping the board at perhaps eleven members, and athlete reps at four? There is no downside to this.

On a related note, I heard that someone made the argument that NCTTA doesn't qualify as a National Organization because they only run tournaments for college players, and so when they run the National Collegiate Championships, it potentially only qualifies for the World University Games, not the World Championships. Except, of course, the bylaws require that they run them at a level to qualify for an international amateur athlete competition, and the World University Games is, of course, an international amateur athlete competition. (And that's how USATT and their lawyers have ruled it for the past 13 years.)

Since it it keeps coming up, I have no connection to NCTTA. Nor am I working for or with anyone. 

USATT Board Meeting
The USATT Board of Directors had an online meeting on Uberconference on Monday, Feb. 1. (I wonder what the advantages of Uberconference are over the seemingly more commonly used Zoom?) There were 49 people in the meeting, about twice the norm because about 30 people from the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association attended, in addition to the USATT Board of Directors and many staff and volunteers. Why were there so many NCTTA people? Because USATT has been refusing to seat the NCTTA board spot that they have held for approximately 13 years. (See my rather long January 18 blog on this.) Not attending was USATT CEO Virginia Sung, who was not feeling well, so representing her was USATT COO Mark Thompson.

There were only three things on the agenda:

  • Amendment to Bylaws to increase Board size for additional Athlete Director and authorize 10 Year+ Athlete Director
  • Creation of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee - PASSED (See segment on this above)
  • 2021 Board Committees

Strangely, the meeting didn't go by the agenda the first half hour. It started with COO Mark giving the 2020 CEO report, which included numerous items (I didn't take careful notes), but included the new USATT membership structure, Coaching certification, the Nationals and Open, and the T2 Challenge matches. (Perhaps they should post these for the membership?) There was also the High Performance Director's Report by HPD Sean O'Neill and the Audit Report by Kelly Watson. During these meetings, only board members, staff, and those recognized by board chair Richard Char can speak, but there's a chat room for anyone, which all participants can see. I asked why they weren't going by the agenda, and Richard responded (verbally), that the CEO and Audit reports always go first. That's generally true, but shouldn't they still be on the agenda?

Then they got to the actual agenda. Most had thought the issue involving NCTTA's not being on the board would be on the agenda, or part of the first item on the agenda (hence the large NCTTA participation), but it wasn't. Instead, it was strictly about adding one spot to the board to allow an extra athlete rep, to allow for 33% representation, as now required by USOPC. However, this doesn't really make sense, as I pointed out in the chat room - see the segment on this above. Briefly, if you go to ten board members with three athlete reps, that's only 30%, and the requirement is at least 33%. (Actually, 1/3, but I'm rounding off.) The explanation, from Richard Char and the USATT lawyer? Since the National Organization spot was not currently filled, they didn't need to have a fourth athlete rep or go to eleven spots (to allow a fourth athlete rep). All they had to do is make sure the National Organization spot remained vacant, keeping the board at nine members, and then the three athlete reps would fulfill the 33% requirement. 

Meaning that if NCTTA or some other group qualifies for the National Organization spot, then these proposed bylaws make it a bylaw violation NOT to seat NCTTA, and a bylaw violation if you DO seat NCTTA! (Again, see segment above.)

I wrote in the chat box, "I think the board needs to go to 11 or more members, since they will need four athlete reps." This seems somewhat obvious. Unfortunately, it seems like some people have entrenched themselves on opposing this and going for the contradictory bylaws. For what possible reason would they do that? (The USOPC person there, Dave Patterson, said that they only count the 33% against those currently on the board, but the key problem here is that the proposed bylaws seem set on keeping the number at 9, meaning the 10th spot, the National Organization spot, would stay vacant. Otherwise, they'd need to add a fourth athlete rep and therefore an 11th board member, both of which would violate the new proposed bylaws.) 

Of course, as I and many others have pointed out, NCTTA clearly qualifies as a National Organization (see my January 18 blog), and should have the spot on the board they've held for many years. I asked several times in the chat room why NCTTA didn't qualify, and the only response, over and over, was various recitations (mostly a quote from the bylaws rules for a National Organization) in various ways that, "They didn't conduct, on a level of proficiency appropriate for the selection of amateur athletes to represent the United States in international amateur athlete competition." But no matter how many times asked, they wouldn't specify how they didn't qualify in this way or how they could qualify. Since the best college players (and nearly the entire US Olympic teams) participates in the National College Championships that NCTTA runs, what more are they expecting? How does one argue against flat assertions made without evidence or explanation? It's not easy, when the ones making the assertions are also the ones making the decision. (NCTTA is currently in a grievance against USATT over this. I expect they will win.) As I wrote in the chat box, "So the reason why they are not eligible is top secret?" No response. The net result, of course, is a LOT of very angry people, especially from NCTTA, which has thousands of players. And for what possible purpose???

Here is the email I sent to the USATT Board of Directors before the meeting:

Dear USATT Board of Directors,

I've been in this sport for 45 years and I've attended about 100 USATT board meetings. And it's with a feeling of déjà vu that I watch as USATT seems on the verge of making the same mistakes as so many past boards. Apparently, USATT is seriously planning on leaving the National Organization position vacant, even though NCTTA obviously fulfills the requirements of the bylaws. If you do so, you will make a huge number of enemies and be rightly and widely criticized. Once again USATT will be split and once again it will be doing endless damage control, both on this issue and on other issues that are the inevitable result of dividing our sport rather than uniting it and focusing on developing it. And for what? You will gain absolutely nothing by doing this. I've seen one board of directors after another do these same self-destructive things, often with the best of intentions, and afterwards all they can do is defend the decision while wondering, "What were we thinking?" Here's the key thing to remember: We're all in this together. Dividing the sport is not the way to go. I implore you to not go down that path, because once you do, it's very hard to change course. 

-Larry Hodges
Member of USATT Hall of Famer
2018 Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient
Two-time member of USATT Board of Directors
USATT Employee for 16 years

Here is the email I sent to the USATT Board of Directors after the meeting:

Dear Board,

I just got off the teleconference. The language of the bylaws clearly show NCTTA qualifies, and many have pointed this out with facts and logic, including me in my blog. The counter-argument is the simple assertion that they do not, and the reason is top secret? And we’re supposed to just accept that? Seriously, is this really the way USATT wants to handle this? I really hope you will rethink this. Remember that the USATT Board of Directors is in charge, and they get the blame or credit if they choose this route – not the employees, volunteers, or lawyers, but you. If you or your lawyers cannot voice a reason publicly for why they do not qualify, what type of an argument can you possibly have? It does appear that what I wrote below was for naught, and once again USATT history will repeat itself. Note that at least 26 people from NCTTA were in the meeting (probably over 30), and you just told them they aren’t eligible but won’t say why. Are you literally trying to anger them? (And once again, I have no connection to NCTTC, just a strong belief in fairness and truth.)

-Larry Hodges

The USATT Motion and Grievance
Here's the NCTTA's posting about the USATT-NCTTA Grievance (covered in the two segments above).
NOTE - this was posted early Tuesday morning, Feb. 9, so I'm putting it up a day late.)

USATT Coaches Meeting and Other Coaching Issues
We had another USATT Coaches Zoom meeting this past Friday, at noon (eastern time) for about an hour. Six coaches attended - USATT High Performance Director Sean O'Neill (who runs the meetings), myself, Samson Dubina, Dan Rutenberg, Wei Qi, and Mike Lauro. Here's a group picture, and here's video of the meeting (59 min). Discussions ranged from Covid to the proper footwork and recovery when moving to the wide forehand (see the Samson Dubina item, 90% of TT Players Have THIS Problem).

One thing I pointed out, based on my observations at the Ohio Open last weekend - this is going to be the "Year of the Weird Style." Because of the pandemic, there are fewer tournaments, but when we do have tournaments, players with weird or rare styles will tend to dominate. Why? Because right now, players are far more limited than normal in opponents to play in practice, and so they are not used to playing a wide variety of styles. As players return to playing in tournaments, they will at first not be "tournament tough," meaning they won't adjust well at first to styles they aren't used to.

The USATT Committee also grandfathered in a new Regional coach - as a member of the committee, that meant going over their credentials, etc. I also received an automatic email from USATT telling me that I had to take the SafeSport refresher course (every two years), so I took that - it took about half an hour. I also took a Covid test last Wednesday (as a precaution after coaching at the Ohio Open last weekend), and the result came back Friday - Negative. So I'm going to live.

USATT Magazines Wanted
After putting it off for months, I finally put up two new sets of shelves, and then went through the many disorganized boxes of old USATT Magazines and organized them. They are now organized!!! Some of you may remember that USATT had a print magazine until 2014, usually bi-monthly, though some years it came out more often. I started in 1976, and have all but seven issues since then, plus one magazine from Nov, 1952, and 28 others from 1962 to 1975. (Much thanks to John Merkel, who sent me a box of his old magazines, so I have fewer missing ones.) I lost a bunch of my old issues in a flood years ago.

I've been going through old magazines and helping Vince Mioduszewski compile all results at every US Open and Nationals at www.ustabletennisresults.com. Here's a picture of the shelves, which I set up in the stairway landing. The magazines are on the shelf on the right, and now that they are all organized, take up a lot less room than expected. (The ones on the bottom shelf, and in front of it, are extras.) The shelves on the left have copies of my books (I have 17 books published), along with the boxes on the floor. On the walls behind and on both sides are copies of the 71 issues of USATT Magazine I did as editor.

Here are the issues I'm still missing - if anyone has a copy of any of these, I'll trade you signed copies of my books for them! Missing issues:

  • July/Aug 1982
  • Nov/Dec 1986
  • Nov/Dec 1987
  • Jan 1988
  • Apr/May 1988
  • May 1989
  • Aug 1991

New from Samson Dubina

Long Distance Forehand Counterlooping
Here's the video (3:13) from Coach Jinxin Wang.

New from Joey Cochran/Table Tennis Junkie

How to Calm Nerves Before a Match
Here's the article by US Team Member Rachel Sung.

The Power of the Forehand Push
Here's the video (49 sec) from Eli Baraty.

Ultimate Guide to Playing Table Tennis at Home
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak.

Your Table Tennis Coordinates
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

New from Steve Hopkins

How Japan Plans to End China's Olympic Table Tennis Dominance
Here's the article from Tokyo2020, with an interview with head coach Mike Baba.

Liam Pitchford on His Breakthrough and Setbacks
Here's the article on the English world #15, from the Olympic Channel.

Let Those Backhands Rip
Here's the video (26 sec) of Germany's world #12 (former #1) Dimitrij Ovtcharov ripping backhands, just as you should be doing.

Timo Boll
Here's the latest on the German world #10 (former #1).

How the Mozart of Table Tennis Learned the Rules & Became a World Champ
Here's the article on Jan-Ove Waldner from The Sports Daily.

Who Hits Hardest?! | TTD Team Speed Gun Challenge
Here's the video (4:39) from Table Tennis Daily.

Spin Shots! Who Did It Best?
Here's the ITTF video (1:40).

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

New from USATT

ITTF News

Super Bowl Michelob Pong
Here's the video (60 sec, but link should take you 34 sec in, where there's 3 sec of table tennis), one of the Super Bowl ads. Since 185 million people saw it, is this the largest "showing" of table tennis ever?

Scott and Austin Preiss Exhibition
Here's the video (57 sec)! Scott of pingpongman.com is on the right.

Top 10 Best Table Tennis Trick Shots 2020
Here's the video (3:32)!

Trampoline Ping Pong Trick Shots
Here's the video (8:08) from Pongfinity!

Tom Brady and Table Tennis

Non-Table Tennis - News Sales and Publications, and an Online Workshops
On Feb. 1, my science fiction story “The Pushovers of Galactic Baseball Fame” was published in Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction. What happens if baseball spreads to the galaxy – but instead of great baseball players that make spectators feel inferior, what’s in great demand are really bad players so spectators can feel good about themselves?

On Feb. 3, 2021 I sold my science fiction story “Love Drops” to New Myths Magazine. (This was my 117th short story sale.) It starts out, “The greatest and most tragic love story began with a bomb exploding on a packed plane, six miles in the air.” But what happens to this elderly, loving couple after the bomb goes off and they are falling to the ground is the real story. It is tentatively scheduled to come out in September.

The cover for the May/June issue of Dark Matter Magazine just came out, with my SF story, “Nanogod,” and my name on the cover! What happens when a nanobot – i.e. a microscopic robot – has its processing system damaged, becomes an egomaniac, and travels the galaxy in a huge ship, enslaving entire civilizations and forcing them to build huge monuments to honor it? (Hint – now we know why the Great Pyramids were really built!) I’ve sold them two stories – I have another SF story coming out with them in November, “Ninety-Nine Sextillion Souls in a Ball.”

Meanwhile, I (and 14 others) just finished a one-month online writing workshop with Scott Andrews with the Odyssey Writing Workshop, “Emotional Truth: Making Characters Emotions Real, Powerful, and Immediate to Readers.” (It’s like a table tennis training camp, but for writers.)

***
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February 1, 2021

Tip of the Week
Play the Middle Against Tall Players, Wide Angles Against Short Players.

$3000 Nittaku Ohio Open
I had a great time this weekend coaching at the Ohio Open  - as always, they run nice events at the Samson Dubina TTA. The tournament staff was Steve Graber Josh Graber, Sam Dubina, Mike Boyd, Blake Cottrell, and of course Samson Dubina (who also acted as referee). Here are complete results, with Gal Alguetti over Sharon Alguetti in the Open final. Here's video (21:53) of Sharon Alguetti's five-game win over Yahao Zhang in the Under 2650 final. All the expected Covid precautions were taken, with everyone's temperature taken on the way in, social distancing, and masks required except when actually at the table playing. (As a precaution, I'll get Covid testing in the next day or so.) And they had free lunch and dinner for everyone on Saturday!!!

I was there coaching Stanley Hsu (12, 2286, #1 in 12 and Under in US) and Ryan Lin (11, 2038, #2 in US in 11 and Under). Between them, I coached an even 40 matches (including four where I coached about half the match), though I had to miss a few when they played at the same time. (Stanley played 23 matches in three events, Ryan played 25 in four events, with groups of 6-8 in each event, with four advancing to playoffs.) Due to the pandemic, they faced the same problem that many others faced - there have been few tournaments this past year, and so "tournament toughness" is an issue. What does that mean? It means the ability to adapt to the different playing styles and pressures of playing in a tournament.

Stanley had a nice tournament, making the semifinals of Under 2400 and quarterfinals of Under 2650, beating one player over 2300 and generally dominating against all "normal" (i.e. modern inverted styles) rated lower than him. He did have trouble adapting after all this time to some weirder styles, but that'll come back. It started out scary for him - in his first match back, he played a long pips blocker rated much lower, one that should have been easy for him. Instead, after game four, Stanley walks over, smiling in amazement at how poorly he's playing as they prepare to play the fifth, and I try to hide how nervous I am as we go over tactics for the last game. Then he goes up 9-0 in the fifth, wins 11-1. Ryan also had a struggling start, also having to go five with a much lower rated player - and up 10-6 in the fifth, he lost four in a row! But he managed to pull it out in deuce. Here's a Facebook album of Stanley at the tournament. (Here are two non-Facebook version - Me with Stanley ("The Masked Duo"), and a nice action one against Seth Pech.)

Did I mention they had free lunch and dinner on Saturday? Lunch was your choice of chicken or vegetarian fried rice; dinner was a selection of sandwiches.

There were lots of tactical and mental battles at the table, and I could write a book on it. Here's one interesting coaching decision that came up. Ryan started out poorly against a much weaker player, and barely won the first game at deuce after being down game point. When I spoke to him between games, should my focus be on tactics to win the match, or getting him to play well? Since he won the first game, I decided to focus on him playing well, and so focused on certain tactics that would simplify things so he could get back into rhythm. But if he had lost that first game, then I had a different series of tactics he should use, since after losing the first game in a best of five to eleven, you can't risk losing the second game just to get your rhythm back. In both cases I focused on the mental game as well, though that would have been even more important if he had lost that first game. In this case, things worked out and he played much better in winning the next two games easily.

Several times between games, when Stanley or Ryan were winning easily against weaker players, I'd wave my arms about and mimic serves and other dramatics while telling them, "This is where I pretend to be saying something really important and you just nod your head like I'm saying something really profound." Table tennis can be fun. Of course, you have to adjust your between-games coaching to the player. Joking may work with one player, but could be distracting for another.

I went up with Ryan and his dad, Hung. He hired a driver so he could work during the five-hour drive from Maryland. Due to a miscommunication, I left my bags in the car on Friday, not realizing the driver was immediately leaving for another driving job - in New Jersey! So that night I discovered that, other than my playing bag, all my stuff was gone - my bags, laptop computer, even my kindle! I had to make do that night, but survived. I even had to borrow a spare comb from Samson!!! The driver returned to pick us up at the end of the tournament, with my stuff still in his trunk. (Ryan finished first, and since Stanley had several more matches to play since he'd advanced in Under 2400, Ryan and his dad were able to leave and I went back later that night with Stanley and his dad, Steve.)

These days I don't coach at tournaments as part of a paying job - I'm basically retired and don't need the money. So it's more fun going as a volunteer as I did this time and will in the future. I've already put together a few items Stanley and Ryan should work on as they continue to improve.

I had a fun discussion with Stanley about what would happen if I were to play him when I was at my peak. As I explained to him, much of his game would be challenging to play, but none of it would scare me - except one thing, which wasn't common back in my day - his off-the-bounce backhand loops, both in rallies and in returning serves ("banana flips"). My whole game plan against him would be about avoiding those shots when possible - not an easy task. The rest of his game (especially his off-the-bounce forehand loops) is very strong and would be difficult to handle, but nothing I wasn't used to. I also pointed out the various ways his physical training has helped his game.  

Did I mention how good the chicken fried rice was?

USATT Online Board Meeting Monday Night
Here is the USATT Agenda and Notices page, with a link to the info page for the USATT board meeting tonight, Monday, Feb. 1, at 8PM Eastern Time, on Uberconference. Anyone is allowed to attend as an observer (plus you can use the chat box), though you cannot speak in the meeting unless recognized by the chair. (I believe you can ask to speak via the chat box, though I'm guessing they limit that.) The agenda is not yet included on the page, but the note says it will go up before the meeting. This will be the first board meeting for new board members Will Shortz, Thomas Hu, and Dan Reynolds. There might be some explosive discussion about possible bylaw changes and board makeup involving adding a third player rep (with the USOPC requiring 33% athlete representation), as well as the status of the National Collegiate TTA National Organization position (which I blogged about on January 18). I'll be there - see you in the chat box!

Seeking Info for Past US Open and Nationals Results History
Here's the note from Vince Mioduszewski, who has created USTableTennisResults.com, a compilation of results for every event in every US Open and Nationals, with the Opens going back to 1931.

I'm seeking information to complete the U.S. Open & Nationals tournament results history website. Looking for any of the old Table Tennis Topics magazines from 1989 and older that would have the U.S. Open results and U.S. Nationals results. The Nationals results would normally be in the Jan/Feb issue of Topics (for the following year) and the U.S. Open results (years 1976 and up) would normally be in the July/Aug or Sept/Oct issue. For U.S Opens 1975 and older the results would be anywhere from April to June possibly July issues. All I need is a good picture of the results that you can email to me, or if you have a collection of them that you no longer want, you can mail them to me, and I’ll reimburse the shipping cost. Also interested in any of the old Open and Nationals programs that are given out at the tournament. If you can help out, please email me.

New from Samson Dubina

New from Joey Cochran

The Backhand Serve
Here's the article by Wang Qingliang.

7 Backhand Flicks That Will Surprise Opponent
Here's the video (12:31) from Ti Long.

Table Tennis "Highest IQ" Moments
Here's the video (3:05) from Table Tennis Central.

USATT Updates Coaching Excellence Certification Program
Here's the USATT article by Mark Thompson. As a member of the USATT coaching committee, I helped out with some of this.

New from USATT

New from Steve Hopkins

ITTF News

Alas, there's been a rash of ITTF obituaries:

Think Americans Wouldn’t Wager on Russian Table Tennis?
Here's the NY Times article.

Dimitrij Ovtcharov Ripping Backhands Against Stephan Fegerl
Here's the video (23 sec) of Ovtcharov (GER, World #12, #1 in 2018) vs. Fegerl (AUT, world #87, #19 in 2017)

The Evolution of Ibrahim
Here's the video (2:47) - showing video from beginner to advanced.

Best and Funniest Points of Male Table Tennis Players
Here's the video (8:10).

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

NCTTA Pongcast Poetry
Here's the NCTTA poetry!

CalTTC - Hella Pong (A Hello Parody)
Here's the music video (4 min).

Sidewalk Prophets - Table Tennis with a Smile
Here's the video (3:31) that all about smiling . . . and table tennis. (The table tennis aspect increases as the video goes on.)

World's Craziest Tournament - Win £1000!!!
Here's the video (16:57) from Table Tennis Daily! "In today’s episode the TTD Team compete in a straight knockout competition using random objects as table tennis bats."

Air Pong?
Here's the video (37 sec)! I often introduce this to the kids in my beginning classes, though we usually play it along the short side of the table, so there's often two games going on, one on each side of the net. (No, we don't do it during class, it's for after class.)

Funny Table Tennis Tricks
Here's the video (49 sec, but the table tennis is in the first half)!

French Table Tennis Cartoon
Here's the cartoon - I can't read the words, but the pictures tell the story!

Table Tennis Defeats the Corona Virus
Here's the cartoon! (Here's the non-Facebook version.) But I think I did it first - here's my own Why the Coronavirus Hates Table Tennis cartoon, as well as my Help Wanted: Table Tennis Coronavirus Smackers cartoon.

***
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January 25, 2021

Tip of the Week
Finding Simple Tactics That Work.

Sally Boggan RIP
Here's the online obit; she was 87. She was the matriarch of perhaps the greatest US table tennis family ever. Alas, they had to take her off life support and she passed away on Saturday, Jan. 23. She had a stroke a year and a half ago that paralyzed her on one side, but recently had a second stroke which paralyzed her other side and led to her death. Here's a picture of the Boggan clan - L-R Sally Boggan, Tim Boggan, Eric Boggon, and Scott Boggan. (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Here is the Tim Boggan in Memory of Sally Boggan GoFundMe page (created by former USATT president Sheri Cioroslan), where you can, "Assist Tim Boggan with Funeral Expenses and Support. This is a continuation of the previous fund. This will help Tim cover medical and funeral expenses for his dear wife Sally. All contributions will go directly to Tim." (Tim, as you may remember from this blog, turned 90 in September, and is still going strong - I've been emailing with him the last few days.)

Playing Different Styles
I've always believed it helps to sometimes practice other playing styles, as it not only adds new dimensions to your game, but gives you an understanding of what it's like to play that style, so you can better understand what works against it. As a coach, of course, I learned all styles, and can play just about any style almost the same level as my normal style.

One year, at the US Open Team Championships in Detroit (which are now the North American Teams in Washington DC - I instigated that move) I was a player/coach for a weaker team. I spent the morning playing players from 1800-2000, and decided to play each of them differently. We played two teams and I played six matches without losing a game. Afterwards, at the Pontchartrain Hotel, which has huge elevators, I was at the back of the elevator when both teams we had played entered the elevator, but didn't see me as I was standing sort of behind some big person. They started talking about their morning, and my name came up. Roughly speaking, this is how the conversation went:

  • Player 1: "I lost to Larry Hodges. He was forehand smashing everything."
  • Player 2: "I lost to Larry, but he was forehand looping everything really soft!"
  • Player 3: "Huh? I lost to Larry, but he's just a blocker!"
  • Player 4: "What are you guys talking about? He's a chopper!"
  • Player 5: "I lost to him, but all he did was fish and lob!"
  • Player 6: "Against me, he forehand ripped everything!"

I had a hard time not cracking up. The truth was I really had changed styles every match. I wish I had had another three matches so I could have tried a few more styles! The only style that gives me great difficulty to play is two-winged looping, since my backhand loop is awkward. I can play that way, but often end up mostly soft-spinning or just fishing on the backhand side. In the match above where I was fishing and lobbing, I think I actually started out two-winged spinning, but switched to just fishing and lobbing.

Weekend Coaching
Once again, due to the pandemic, there were no group sessions, so I only did one hour with Navin Kumar on Saturday. Focus was on blocking all over the table, so I did drills where I looped everywhere. We focused on chop-blocks on the backhand, and quick blocking and sometimes smashing on the forehand. I also chopped to him for 15 minutes. Here's video (45 sec) where I realize that 1) He's leaning to the ball instead of moving (I have to remember to remind him), and I keep seeing how much out of shape I've become after nearly a year of mostly sitting in my lounge chair.

Bernie Sanders and Table Tennis
Unless you are blind, you have seen the new Bernie memes from the picture of Bernie at the inauguration. Here are three that involve table tennis! (Here's an article on Bernie that includes a picture of him playing table tennis with his grandchildren, from the Burlington Free Press, December 2019.)

USATT Coaches Meeting
We had another USATT Coaches meeting (51 min) on Friday, at noon eastern time. Five of us attended - Host Sean O'Neill (USATT High Performance Director), myself, Samson Dubina, Mike Lauro, and Sameh Awadalla. (Here's a screenshot.) If you are a USATT certified coach, why not join us next time? (I believe Friday, Feb. 5.) Info is on the USATT Coaches Facebook page, along with other coaching info. Topics discussed this time:

  1. Welcome (each of us gave a short rundown on recent activities)
  2. Stefan Feth (hired as USATT Men's Coach)
  3. Assistant Coaches (Pan Am Junior Games - 9/10-15/21)
  4. Switcher Studio Subscriptions
  5. Stupa Android
  6. Discussion Topic: Unreal Expectations and Anxiety

A Professional Coach Makes You a Better Player
Here's the article by Dora Kurimay. "Ways a Professional Coach Can Help You Become a Better Table Tennis Player" - with three big ways given.

New from Samson Dubina

New from Joey Cochran

How to Do the Reverse Pendulum Serve
Here's the video (3:51) from PingPonged TV.

Forehand Loop Against Underspin with Ex-Cadet Team Members
Here's the video (10:16) from PandaPong.

Block Like Legends Waldner and Fan Zhendong
Here's the video (8:38) from Ti Long.

How I Practice Table Tennis
Here are three videos from Ohio 2400+ star Seth Pech:

Looeelooee Table Tennis Lessons Q and A - Why Good Rubbers Suck
Here's the video from Louis Levene (15:35). A key thing here, for me, is it is the harder sponges (such as Tenergy Hard) that I wouldn't recommend except for advanced players. But the softer versions, such as regular Tenergy and the even softer Tenergy FX, I would recommend. I find it's good for players to go to more advanced sponges early on, but not the hard versions, and not on a fast blade. (You have to swing much harder for the harder sponges to be effective, which only advanced players should be doing on most shots.)

32 Seconds of Xu Xin Multiball Footwork
Here's the video - have you done your footwork today?

Why Table Tennis is the Most UNDERRATED Sport
Here's the video (9:42).

Tomokazu Harimoto vs Mizuki Oikawa
Here's the video (29:45) of the big quarterfinal upset at the Japanese Championships, as Oikawa (world #63) upsets Harimoto (world #5, #1 in world outside China) and goes on to win the title. (See article below on this from Steve Hopkins , 2021 All-Japan Finals: New Era Rising?)

New from Steve Hopkins

New from USATT

$102,000 World Ping Pong Masters
Here's the home page for this sandpaper event held in Coventry, England, this past weekend. Alexander Flemming (GER) defeated Andrew Baggaley (ENG) in the final. The page gives the exact prize money listing, news, and complete results. Here's a video (8:25) of the final, but the quality isn't that good. Here's an article from Table Tennis England. 

With Six Months to Go, the Tokyo Olympics Are Swimming Against a Tide of Doubt
Here's the article from the Washington Post, about whether the Olympics will be held this year or not. Table tennis is mentioned twice.

Medal Winning Table Tennis Star and Author Mathew Syed on What Makes Him Tick
Here's the article from The Scottish Sun.

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

ITTF News
Here's their home page and news page.

Psychedelic Penholder Girl
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Would You Play Ping-Pong on Ice?
Here's the video (16:30)!

Ping Pong | Actin' Funny
Here's the video (13:53) - the level of play is low, but it's pretty funny!

Behind-the-Back Counter-Smash
Here's the video (49 sec, including slo-mo replay)!

Vying for the Kingdom of My Ping Pong Garage
Here's the video (51 sec), featuring Adoni Maropis!

Another Year of Ping Pong
Here's the video (10:53) with some really great stuff from Adam Bobrow!

Mostly Non-Table Tennis - Interview About Pinning the Egg
Here's the interview (9:18) with me about my science fiction story, Pinning the Egg, which appeared in the SciPhi Journal a month ago. The focus of the first seven minutes is about how I developed the two main characters for the story, but the last two minutes he asks me about table tennis! (Here's the story description: "When a Murt egg lands on Earth, it's up to the resident Zinh to stop it before it hatches and destroys all life, as part of the galaxy-wide war between the malicious Murt and the Zinh defenders, with the taunting as nasty as the fighting. The story starts with a Go game with Emperor Qin in China 2200 years ago and then moves to England, where even Excalibur makes an appearance."

***
Send us your own coaching news!

January 18, 2021

Tip of the Week
Shorten Stroke on Receive.

Weekend Coaching - Not
Here's the notice at my club: "MDTTC will be closed for two weeks starting Jan. 15 due to possible COVID exposure." Yikes!!! So no coaching this past weekend. I'm told we can do limited private coaching, so I might do a session next weekend. We'll see.

Han Xiao Appointed to Co-chair Commission on the State of the U.S. Olympics and Paralympics
Below are two articles. (His co-chair is Edwin Moses.) Han, 33, is already the Chair of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) Athletes’ Advisory Council. He was a long-time member of the US National Men's Team, 4-time US Men's Doubles Champion, and Men's Finalist at the 2011 Nationals. He's from my club, MDTTC - in fact, I'm the first person in table tennis to meet him, when he came in with his dad at age seven. I was owner/director/coach, and assigned him to Coach Cheng Yinghua, who had an opening an hour later. Over the years I trained with him zillions of hours, coached him at tournaments, he won every junior title and many men's titles . . . and now he's making it even bigger!!! (Xiao is roughly pronounced, "chow.") The last time I beat him was when he was 13 and over 2300, and I did that by catching him off guard by suddenly chopping at the end!

USATT Board of Directors
A strange thing happened a few days ago. I browsed over the USATT Board of Directors Page - and saw two weird things. (Skip this long segment if you have no interest in USATT matters.)

First, there were three athlete representatives listed, when our bylaws specify there are two. The rule for many years has been that at least 20% of the board and all committees must be athletes (roughly defined as players over the past ten years on National Teams to the World Championships, Paralympic World Championships, Olympics, Paralympics, Pan Ams, and Para Pan Ams). The three were Tara Profitt, Niraj Oak, and newly-added Yijun Feng. Now it so happens that there is a new USOPC rule that requires the boards and committees of all Olympic and Paralympic sports to go to 33% athlete representation - Section 5 of the Empowering Athletes Act. Here's an article on it. Here is the Empowering Athletes Act of 2020, where it says, ""(C) require that— (i) not less than 1⁄3 of the membership of the board of directors of the corporation shall be composed of, and elected by, such amateur athletes."

However, that does not override our bylaws, which are the rules USATT goes by - it means that USATT and other sports will have to change their bylaws. USOPC cannot "order" us to make the change, but they can punish us if we don't go along, including decertifying us or cutting our funding. So it's essentially 100% certain that USATT will change its bylaws, either at their next board teleconference on Feb. 1, or soon afterwards. (Bylaws require 30-days' notice, and since I'm told no notice of this has gone to the board yet, they can't do it on Feb. 1 - except that the bylaws allow the board to waive the 30-day rule if they unanimously agree.) And so, this board, with an "illegal" third athlete rep, wasn't a legal board.

I contacted the chair, Richard Char, and he agreed, and within hours the change had been made back to two athlete reps listed. Surprisingly, Niraj Oak was removed, though Yijun Feng had been the new one. But presumably, once the board does change the bylaws, Oak will be back on. They key thing is that USATT needs to change the bylaws first to allow the third rep, and then they can add the third rep.

HOWEVER - and this is a big however - there's a problem. If you add a third athlete rep, then doesn't that mean one of the other positions has to leave? Otherwise, there'd be ten board members - and then you'd have to add a fourth athlete rep, and now we're at eleven! But conveniently, one spot is currently vacant - the National Organizational position. So all they have to do is replace that with the third athlete rep, and all is well, right?

What is a National Organization? According to our bylaws, "National Organization members are those amateur sports organizations that register as a national organization and which conducts, on a level of proficiency appropriate for the selection of amateur athletes to represent the United States in international amateur athlete competition, a national program or regular national amateur athletic competition in the sport of Table Tennis."

For the last decade or more, the only National Organization we've had has been the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association (NCTTA). And so they've held the position. So why is it now vacant?

I'm told that USATT contests that NCTTA doesn't fulfill the requirements to be a National Organization, and that's why the position is vacant. Specifically, I'm told they argue that they haven't funded players to the World Collegiate Championships in recent years. The primary reason for this, of course, is funding. But here's the problem I see - that's not what the definition from our bylaws says. It says a National Organization member:

"...conducts, on a level of proficiency appropriate for the selection of amateur athletes to represent the United States in international amateur athlete competition, a national program or regular national amateur athletic competition in the sport of Table Tennis."

NCTTA runs the National Collegiate Championships each year, and the winners are the best college players in the country (here's a listing), which means the "level of proficiency" is obviously appropriate for "the selection of amateur athletes to represent the United States in international amateur athlete competition. (And the World University Games are obviously an "international amateur athlete competition.") Over the last few years they include big names like Lily Zhang (world #30), Yue Wu (world #31), Ariel Hsing (3-time US Women's Singles Champion), Jiaqi Zheng (2015 US Women's Singles Champion), Jishan Liang (2636, previously over 2700), Kai Zhang (2656, previously over 2700), Yichi Zhang (2623), and so on. Others who compete in the NCTTA events include US Team members Tom Feng and Adar Alguetti, and the other two Alguetti brothers (Sharon and Gal) would be except for the pandemic. (The rankings given are ITTF world rankings, not collegiate rankings.) So, yes, NCTTA easily fulfills the definition of a National Organization.

Here's where things get tricky. Since the Board has to make room for that third athlete spot, they'll be tempted to just remove another position. The easiest way to do that is to simply remove that currently vacant spot, the National Organization position, and replace it with the third athlete rep.

However, there's a problem with that. According to the Ted Stevens Act (officially the Olympic and Amateur Sports Act Amendments of 1998), under Eligibility Requirements,

"An amateur sports organization is eligible to be recognized, or to continue to be recognized, as a national governing body only if it—
   (11)  provides for reasonable direct representation on its board of directors or other governing board for any amateur sports organization that—
      (A)  conducts a national program or regular national amateur athletic competition in the applicable sport on a level of proficiency appropriate for the selection of amateur athletes to represent the United States in international amateur athletic competition; and
      (B)  ensures that the representation reflects the nature, scope, quality, and strength of the programs and competitions of the amateur sports organization in relation to all other programs and competitions in the sport in the United States;"

So USATT seemingly is required to have the National Organization position, and presumably why the position is there at all.

So what can USATT do? There's a simple solution. EXPAND THE BOARD!!! Right now there are nine positions. Go to eleven or twelve. With eleven, you would include all nine of the current positions, plus two additional athlete reps. With twelve, you could add either a third At-Large Representative elected from the membership, a Junior Rep, or some other position. (And the USATT board historically had eleven members for most of its history.) But whichever way they go, the Feb. 1 meeting will have some interesting discussions.

Other USATT News

Everyone Wants to Pay Me Big Money for My Table Tennis Domains!
I've been offered $8000 for my domain, tabletenniscoaching.com! And it's not my only table tennis site that others are feverishly trying to buy. I also own tabletennisparlor.com - and have separate offers of $15,000 (!) and $2036 for it! Golly!!! Alas, as pointed out to me by John Olsen (who not only is rated over 2000, but knows a thing or two about computers and online scams), it is a scam. (I've never used tabletennisparlor.com, but if anyone wants to buy it, let me know. At Godaddy.com, it says, "Table tennis" is a high value keyword that has an average sale price of $2,036.00.")

New from Samson Dubina

Working on Some Counter Topspins with Justin Kwan
Here's the video (42 sec). I've blogged about this type of drill before - it gives a much more realistic practice against an opening loop against backspin than what most players do, which is just off-table counterlooping. This is a standard drill when I'm coaching players beyond the beginning stage.

6 Types of Forehand Flicks That Attack Opponent's Spin
Here's the video (12:12) from Ti Long.

3 Phases of a Table Tennis Stroke
Here's the video (3:51) from inMotion Table Tennis.

Reverse Windshield Wiper | Fast Topspin
Here's the video (7:35) from Joey Cochran.

Multiball Training with Bernadette Szocs
Here's the video (88 sec) with the world #26 from Romania.

One of the Most Effective Services in Table Tennis
Here's the video (1:42) featuring world #48 Matilda Ekholm of Sweden.

Best Points Of The Decade
Here's the video (37 min) from Table Tennis Destiny. I recognize many of them!

Top 3 Defensive Table Tennis Players
Here's the video (8:37) featuring Ruwen Filus (GER, world #42), Panagiotus Gionis (GRE, world #49), and Joo Sae Hyuk (KOR, 2003 World Men's Singles Finalist).

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

New From Steve Hopkins

Getting High On Balsa
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Betterplay: Artificial Intelligence for Better Table Tennis Experience
Here's the page for Betterplay, including About and How It Works pages. "Choose the full match/set/practice video(s). The tool breaks a game down to the rallies. Breaking rallies into elements will be enabled in the future versions." (Using artificial intelligence to analyze techniques seems to be the new "in" thing. See the segment on Stupa Analytics in my November 23, 2020 blog.)

Table Tennis Transfers
Here's the online platform "designed to help the sport and change how people in table tennis interact. It connects all table tennis players, coaches, clubs & academies, professional and nonprofessional, simultaneously in one place. If you share our vision, help us reach as many table tennis people as possible and sign up. Currently there are users from 96 countries."

Matchroom Launches $102,000 World Ping Pong Masters
Here's the news release on the Sandpaper event to be held Jan. 23-24 in the Ricoh Arena in Coventry, England. This sort of takes the place of the annual World Championships of Ping Pong in London, also a sandpaper event, which was cancelled this year due to Covid. (One of the strange things about these big "Ping Pong" events is that they downplay that they are sandpaper-only events.)

ITTF News

David S. Cohen, Deputy Head of the CIA and Table Tennis Player
Here's the New York Times article, which says, "Mr. Cohen is also an enthusiastic table tennis player, dominating games at C.I.A. charity fund-raisers, according to an official."

Child Hand Multiball
Here's the video (43 sec)!

What is the perfect Age to Start Playing Table Tennis, a Robot Ad . . . and a Budding Acting Career?
Here's the video (74 sec) featuring Titus Dubina, who is embarking on his professional table tennis, acting, and endorsement career!

Monica and Mike Ping Pong Table Tennis Challenge from TV Show "Friends"
Here's the video (71 sec)! (It's an old clip, but I think it just went online.)

Pig Pong Board Game
Here's the ad (30 sec) from 1986!

Cat Tail Pong?
Here's the video (15 sec)!

Cat vs Ping Pong Ball
Here's the video (1:32)!

Paddle in the Face
Here's the video (11 sec)! That took some deadly accuracy. (While practicing, I once did a forehand pendulum serve with so much force that the racket flew out of my hand and broke a window!)

Funny, Unstoppable Rally
Here's the video (30 sec)!

Table Tennis Comics and Cartoons
I usually put up new ones as they come out. However, many of you may have missed some of the classics of the past. So here is what comes up when you Google the following, under "Images"!

***
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January 11, 2021

Tip of the Week
Should You Experiment If You Have a Big Lead?

Mercy Points and Comebacks
There was quite a lot of discussion on Facebook from my blog last week about whether to give "mercy points." So let's revisit. 

The basic rule is that it's up to you if you want to give a mercy point at 10-0. Both Ma Long and Jan-Ove Waldner, generally considered the two main candidates for Greatest of All Time, have given away mercy points or played exhibition at the end of a lopsided match. Other top players are die-hard try to win every point, even at 10-0 against a beginner. Some players might be insulted if you "give" them a point, so it depends on the player and circumstances. As I said, in a non-competitive match, I prefer to put a ball up and let them "earn" the point.

It also depends on the event. A senior focused on winning Over 50 at the Nationals shouldn't take chances there, but might give a point (or go easy) at 10-0 match point in a rating event against a much weaker player. Some champions are cut-throat at all times; others are only cut-throat when it matters, and can turn it on or off when needed.

Comebacks do happen. Most of my playing career took place when games were to 21. During that time, I came back from 14-20 or 15-20 match point seven times. Nobody has ever done that to me. (The biggest comeback against me was Joe Cummings, when I lost from up 20-16 match point at the Southern Open in Baton Rouge in the late 1980s. Still stings, since the kids at the Resident Training Program at the Olympic Training Center, where I was at various times manager/director/one of the coaches, spent the next year saying, "Cummings back!")

=>Math Alert!!! Skip this paragraph if you suffer from Math Phobia!<=
What are the chances of a comeback from 0-10? If each point is even, then the odds are 0.5 to the tenth to reach deuce, and then it's 50-50 you win, so the odds are 0.5 to the eleventh, or about one in about two thousand (1 in 2048). But if you give a point away, it drops to about one in a thousand (1 in 1024). But let's assume the opponent gets hot and would score 60% of the points. The odds of him reaching deuce from 0-10 are one 0.6 to the tenth power, or one in 165. At deuce, the math gets tricker since you have to win two in a row (see note on this below), but the odds of him winning at deuce are about 69%. So his chances of winning from down 0-10 are about 1 in 239. If you give a mercy point, then the odds of him winning are about 1 in 144. Now let's assume you are playing a world-class player who wins 80% of the points against you, but spots you a 10-0 lead. He'll have about one chance in 9.3 of deucing it. At deuce he's about a 16-1 favorite (94%), and so his chances of winning the game from down 0-10 is about 10.1%. If you give a mercy point at 10-0, then his chances are about 1 in 7.9, or about 12.6%. (Here's a simple way of calculating the odds at deuce. If the other player wins 80% of the points, then he has a .8 squared chance of winning two in a row, or 0.64 = 64%. The opponent wins 20% of the points, so has a .2 squared chance of winning two in a row, or 0.04% = 4%. If they split points and it's deuce again, then the calculation starts over and doesn't affect the odds. So you just take the probability the stronger player wins two in a row - 64% - to the probability the weaker player wins two in a row - 4% - and that's the probability the stronger player wins, i.e. 64 to 4, or 16 to 1, or 94%.)

One question that came up is whether a player who gets a "mercy point" or has an opponent who starts playing exhibition is morally expected to lose. Not a chance. The one giving the mercy point or playing exhibition at the end is the one taking the risk. The only time it would be immoral to come back is if you join in the exhibition play.

Here are some of the biggest comebacks I know of.

  • In 1977, Curt Kronlage (age 13, rate 1677) won the first and was up 20-6 match point on chopper Sid Jacobs (senior player, rated 1858), and lost 16 points in a row, and lost the third 21-14. Yep, I remember all the numbers!
  • Sometime in the late 1970s, the Hungarians Istvan Jonyer and Tibor Klampar were up 20-8 match point in the semifinals of Men's Doubles at the Worlds against a Chinese team, and lost.
  • At the Sun TV Open in the early 1990s, I was down 0-10 in the fifth to Pat Cox in the final of I think Under 2400, and scored ten in a row to 10-all! But games were to 21 back then. I won the match, 26-24 in the fifth.
  • In different junior events at the US Nationals one year, one kid was up 10-2 match point in two different matches and lost both.
  • I was told that Brian Masters was up 10-0 in the first game against Jim Butler at the US Team Trials one year and lost the game and match. (I was there but didn't see the match.)
  • I once played in a handicap tournament at some 4-star tournament, where you played one game to 51. I was about 2250 and played this player under 1000, and had to spot him 48 points, the maximum. So I was down 0-48!!! I tied it at 48-all - yes, 48 points in a row, he was that bad. Then he got two net/edges in a row! I deuced it, 50-all. Then he net-dribbled my serve back, 50-51 - I think it was the first serve he'd returned the whole match! Then, on the very last point, he suddenly (and extremely awkwardly) smashed a winner, the only point in the match he earned, to win, 52-50!!! I still remember lunging for that smash on the last point, couldn't believe it actually hit, and when I lobbed it off, it left me scarred for life!!! About 50 people were watching this at the end.
  • Scott Gordon reports that "in one of the Gilbert Cup tournaments [early 1990s?], Kong Linghui was up something like 19-3 against someone (I think Kim Taek Soo), and almost lost. His opponent deuced the game and Kong had to win the deuce battle, if I remember right."
  • Samson Dubina reports, "At the tournament last weekend, Kenzie was down 2-0 and 10-0 and came back to win the match. At the league last Thursday, Fiona was down 10-2 in the fifth and came back to win. Personally, I feel that I have a 0.001% chance to come back from down 10-0... so I would prefer not getting a mercy point. A 10-0 comeback truly is possible."

USATT Coach of the Year Awards
Here's the USATT News item. (Update: They've added bios.) Here is the USATT Coach of the Year info page, which includes a listing of past winners. (I've won twice - but what it doesn't show is that I was runner-up for Coach of the Year three times in the 1990s!!!) This year's winners are:

  • National Coach of the Year – Tao Wenzhang – Spartans TTC, Santa Clara, CA
  • Mark Nordby Developmental Coach of the Year –  Dan Liu –  ICC, Milpitas, CA 
  • Volunteer Coach of the Year – Mike Boyd – Samson Dubina TTA, Uniontown, OH
  • Doc Counsilman – Qingliang Wang – MDTTC, Germantown, MD  
  • Para Coach of the Year – Vlad Farcas – San Antonio, TX
  • Para Development Coach of the Year – Gary Fraiman, Sunrise TTC, Clearwater, FL

Weekend Coaching
I pulled out my chopping blade and chopped to Navin Kumar for close to half an hour, getting him ready for the World Parkinson's Championships in September in Berlin (hopefully!), where we know there's a strong chopper. (I use a Butterfly Joo Saehyuk blade, with Tackiness C-II on the forehand, Feint Long II on the backhand. I'm almost the same level chopping as attacking.) The focus was on long rallies, where he attacked with his backhand long pips all over the table, with occasional forehand attacks. We also worked on his blocking (chop blocks on the backhand) and forehand attack. Here's video (50 sec) of my looping to his forehand block. (The Junior Program was off this weekend, so otherwise I had a free weekend.)

Baby Yoda Shirts
I now have two of them! (Yeah, I'm a fan of The Mandalorian and Baby Yoda (Grogu). Here are my two shirts, which you can get at Amazon.

USATT Coaches Meeting
We had our last Zoom session on Friday at noon, eastern time. They are every two weeks, on Fridays for about one hour, and hosted by USATT High Performance Director Sean O'Neill. The sessions are open to all USATT coaches. Others attending were Gao Jun, Jasna Rather, Samson Dubina, Marguerite Cheung, Mike Lauro, Britt Salter, and Larry Hodges (me). Here's a group picture and here's video (57:41). Here was the agenda:

  1. Intros
  2. 2020 COY
  3. Switcher Studio Opportunities
  4. Free STUPA (android & iOS)
  5. Insurance/Coaching License
  6. January 15 USATT Covid Update
  7. WTT Doha Bubble
  8. 2021 National Team Trials
  9. Your turn

USATT Coaches Committee Meeting
On Thursday night, the USATT Coaches Committee (Pieke Franssen, Gao Jun, Dave Fullen, and Larry Hodges) had a Zoom meeting (about 45 min) with USATT CEO Virginia Sung and High Performance Director Sean O'Neill. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss coaches' licenses and other upcoming coaching certification issues. It's something they are working on, but nothing to report on yet.

Senator Jeff Merkley and Table Tennis
Here's the video (3:03) of CNN panning over the ransacked office of Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) after the recent Capitol attack. At 1:35, for about ten seconds, you can see he has a Desktop Table Tennis set!!! They even zoom in on it for a few seconds. (They made a real mess of his office, even stole a laptop computer.

NCTTA Cancels 2020-21 Season
Here's the news item. "Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association (NCTTA) has canceled its entire 2020-21 season. The Collegiate Table Tennis Championships at the Round Rock Sports Center will not be held this year. The safety of our student-athletes and volunteers remains the highest priority."

New from Samson Dubina

Cardiofit Ping
Here's their webpage, and here's info on a free trial session starting Jan. 17. "The first virtual club that offers a specific physical training for table tennis from home by video-conference."

Table Tennis VOD Review #7 - Where's the Bread and Butter?
Here's the video (29:40) from Louis Levene. "I make most of my comments for this one near the end of the video so watch it all the way through!"

Forehand and Backhand Looping Technique
Here's the video (60 sec).

How Strong is Xu Xin's Forehand?
Here's the video (3 min) from 247 tabletennis.

What’s the Score???
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Timo Boll vs Kanak Jha | FINAL | German Cup 2021
Here's the video (7:24) of their match in the Team Final. You can read more about it in Steve Hopkin's "Boll Perfect as Dusseldorf takes German Cup." Here's another interesting match: Timo Boll vs Hugo Calderano | FINAL | German Cup 2021 (11:01). 

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

New from Steve Hopkins

USATT News

ITTF CEO Explains How Table Tennis Survived COVID-19
Here's the article from Australia's Ministry of Sport. "International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) CEO, and World Table Tennis (WTT) director, Steve Dainton, spoke with Ministry of Sport on how COVID-19 affected the world of table tennis and the battle between traditional broadcast and Over-The-Top digital streaming broadcast (OTT)."

ITTF News

Ping Pong Review
Here's the review of Taiyō Matsumoto's manga Ping Pong, which was released as two-volumes in English last year. They are a bit expensive, about $20 each, but are both 520 pages, so that's a lot of pages!

"So, Do You Play?" Asks Girlfriend's Little Brother, Gesturing Grandly To Ping-Pong Table
Here's the article from The Onion!

Dominic Thiem Plays Table Tennis
Here's the video (28 sec) - note all the two-handed backhands! Dominic Thiem (on the right) is the world #3 tennis player. Not sure who is on the left. (Email me if you know.)

Double-Ball No-Table Table Tennis
Here's the video (2:04)!

Game Over: Table Tennis Gone Wrong
Here's the video (5:12) - with a "fake" Mr. Bean!

Eight-Two, Brute
Here's the cartoon!

Coronavirus Table Tennis Cartoons
I searched the Internet and could only find four - and three of them were by me. So here they are! (I didn't do the first one.)

***
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January 4, 2021

Tip of the Week
Play Both Weaker and Stronger Players.

Weekend Coaching - Navin and Stanley
The junior program starts again next weekend, so no group sessions this past weekend. I did my usual session with Navin Kumar, and it was one of our best. He blocks with long pips on the backhand (no sponge), and has gotten pretty good at it. About a year ago I'd worked with him on chopping down on the ball slightly at contact, a chop block, but due to Parkinson's, it didn't work out well - it requires a fine touch. So since the we've focused since then on meeting the ball more straight on.

Coach Gary Fraiman (from Florida) saw a video of one of our sessions and suggested he chop block more. (Gary is highly experienced coaching Para players, and as a player is a long pips chopper, so he knows about long pips.) He and I discussed it via Facebook messenger, and I decided to introduce it again - and this time Navin picked up on it quickly!!! When you meet a topspin ball straight on with long pips, you get much of your spin back as backspin. But if you chop block it with the pips, it returns nearly all of the spin, especially if there is no sponge under the pips. Plus, since the ball isn't sinking directly into the wood, it bounces out softer, giving more control, especially depth control. This allows Navin and other players with long pips to block loops back with heavy backspin, both deep and short on the table. (You can't really block a power loop back short, but you can against softer loops or ones that land short.)

  • Chop Blocks (55 sec) mostly against my backhand topspin
  • Chop Blocks (51 sec) where he moves me around (plus I pull off a lefty loop)

Navin also was interviewed by 13-year-old Peyton Magee, editor of the Georgia-based Loch Lomond Gazette.

Meanwhile, other players were also doing private coaching. Here's video (49 sec) of Stanley Hsu (age 12, #1 in the US in Hopes Boys at 2286) counterlooping with Coach Cheng Yinghua (4-time US National, 2-time US Open Men's Singles Champion, and former Chinese National Team member). Stanley started out in my beginning class (I taught him the fundamentals), and I still sometimes coach him in our group sessions and at tournaments.

Should You Give a Mercy Point or Win 11-0?
Here's the video (6:01) from Pingponged TV. It's nice to give up a point to avoid embarrassing an opponent. However, it also risks a rare comeback from 10-1, and (the bigger, more likely problem), can throw off your focus, which could affect you afterwards. Also, against a rival, winning 11-0 can affect their confidence against you in future matches, making it harder for them to beat you. Of course, the simplest path, and one recommended by the most competitive-minded, is to play every point all-out, even at 10-0 against a beginner. (Some players will actually get upset if you give them a "mercy" point - but that's often if you make it too obvious, instead of making them at least sort of earn it.)

My policy on this is as follows.

  • In a competitive match, if I'm up 10-0, I don't even think about the score; I play to win, and if I win 11-0, fine, but all that matters is that I won the game or match, won it playing well, and kept my focus. In a slightly competitive match, where there's little chance of a comeback, if I’m up 10-0 match point against someone considerably weaker, then I'll sometimes play a lobbing exhibition point, if I think the opponent is okay with it. (What is a "competitive match"? Any match where, if you play really poorly and the opponent plays really well, he could win. Typically, that might be a 400-point difference in rating, assuming the ratings are accurate - but to play it safe, make that 500 points. By the time you are up 10-0, you'll know if the ratings are accurate.)
  • In a non-competitive match, if I'm up 10-0, I won't give away the point. But I will almost always pop a ball up slightly and give the opponent a chance to partly earn the point. But they still have to smash it past me! Against a near-beginner who can at least somewhat smash, I'll make it even easier, and give them the easiest possible ball to smash - high, but not a lob, and without any serious spin. Then I'll fish and lob the rest of the point.

I've had a few 11-0 wins in tournaments. Back in the days when games were to 21, I only once beat someone 21-0, though I could have done so many times against beginners. The one time I did was against this 1800 player who, after I won the first 21-18, went crazy between games, yelling out he could have beaten me and would beat me, and drawing a crowd to watch this crazy guy. (I was about 2250 at the time.) I bore down in the second. It was at around 10-0 (with him screaming every point) that I really became determined to win 21-0 - and at 20-0, I was never so focused! On a side note, the first 2000 player I ever played was Herb Horton, early in 1976 when I was a beginner. He beat me 21-1, 21-0, 21-2. Another interesting match that shows no lead is too big - against Pat Cox in the final of I think Under 2400 at a 4-star Sun TV Open in Pittsburgh, I was down 0-10 in the fifth. I tied it up 10-all! But games were to 21. I went on to win . . . 26-24!!!

The Years 2020, 2021, and 2022
Am I the only old-timer from the days when games were to 21 (before 2001), who, this past year, whenever someone said "2020," thought we were at deuce, and for this next year, whenever someone says "2021," will think I'm down game point? Next year is worse - that's when we lose, 2022. (Of course, every time we say 2021 we are admitting that 2020 won.)

11 Return Sidespin Serves That Make the Opponent Give Up
Here's the video (13:27) from Ti Long. Some of these are way under-used by aspiring players.

Ma Long Forehand Loop (Topspin) | Weight Transfer Analysis
Here's the video (2:13) from inMotion Table Tennis.

Super Tip - Develop your Serve
Here's the video (2:47) from Eli Baraty.

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

New from Samson Dubina

The Life of a Table Tennis Coach in Covid Times
Here's the video (8:12) featuring Ernesto Ebuen, from pingponged TV. "We talked to Ernesto Ebuen, a player born in the Philippines who migrated to the United States in 2007 where he has been able to build a career in table tennis: as a player, as a coach and as co-founder of PINGPOD: a concept of a small format table tennis clubs in NYC. In this personal interview he tells us how the Covid 19 pandemic took away one of his loved ones at the very beginning of the pandemic, how he himself faced the disease and how a table tennis club can manage infections and continue to function despite a positive case of covid-19."

Table Tennis Talk Podcast | Episode 5
Here's the podcast (82 min) featuring Dan Seemiller, Jr., head coach at the El Paso TTC, by Joey Cochran of Table Tennis Junkie. "Also Ultimate Table Tennis, T-League 2019, the Chinese Nationals, Joey's Coaching Corner, and the Weird World of Table Tennis."

USATT News

New from Steve Hopkins

John Tannehill Tribute
Here's the music video (4:09) featuring Tannehill and others, from Dave Fullen.

Top 50 Best Table Tennis Points of 2020
Here's the video (14 min) from TTEntertaining.

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

2021 Preview: Top three male athletes with a point to prove
Here's the ITTF article, featuring Hugo Calderano, Liam Pitchford, and Mattia Falck.

ITTF News
Here's their home page and news page.

The Magic Chopper
Here are two videos of "The Magic Chopper" from the 1960s, Zhang Xielin of China - a penhold chopper. (He was also known as Chang Shih-lin.) He apparently beat most of the Europeans, who had trouble adapting to his unconventional chopping technique, which included backhand sidespin chops. (His Chinese teammates were used to him, and so did better.)

Christmas Paddle Video
Here's the video (53 sec) - "This truly is a special moment... boy gets the perfect gift this Christmas." A must watch.

Earn £100 a Week Teaching Monkeys to Play Table Tennis
Here's the ad! (Here's the non-Facebook version.) I have no idea when this came out or the context, but I now know that "Teaching ping-ping to monkeys is both challenging and rewarding. All it takes is patience and a large box of bananas."

Ping-Pong Trick Shots
Here's the video (1:10) from LegendTrix.

More Ping-Pong Trick Shots
Here's the video (1:22) by a kid from Dude Attack. (It's listed as video #5, but the previous ones weren't ping-pong trick shots.)

Men's World Cup: The Lego Movie!
Here's the video (3:27) as once again Fan Zhendong and Ma Long go at it!

Santa Wishes You a Happy New Year 2021!!!
Here's the cartoon. (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Puppy-Pug Pong
Here's the video (19 sec)! Hilarious!

Mostly Non-Table Tennis - My Science Fiction Blog
Here's the blog, with a new entry for January 2, 2021. (Note that both larryhodges.com and larryhodges.org both go to my SF blog.) It's mostly about my sales and published stories in 2020, a writing workshop I'm currently attending (sort of like attending a table tennis camp), and about the 67 books I read last year! (This includes six on table tennis.)

***
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December 28, 2020

Tip of the Week
Use Quick, Deep Pushes to Set Up Your Attack.

Miscellaneous

  • Today's blog is my 1800th blog, and coincidentally the last of the year. (I used to do them five days a week, Mon-Fri.) This is in addition to 17 books and over 2000 published articles!
  • There was no junior group sessions this past weekend - holidays!!! But I did coach Navin Kumar on Saturday. Here are two videos (note how empty the club is due to holidays and pandemic!): Forehands (20 sec, and note how six seconds in I move in and start taking the ball quick off the bounce, to rush Navin) and Loop to Navin's Block (35 sec, and if you listen closely, near the end you can hear me doing my Gollum impression, where I tell myself "I can't do this" and then "Yes I can!", back and forth).
  • My quick and really, really bad limerick epitaph for 2020:

The year 2020 for ping-pong,
A year of nonstopping wrong,
Like playing 'gainst long pips,
Or players with wrong grips,
Or a ball smacked in your face by King Kong!

New from USA Table Tennis
You definitely want to see the first video - may they all rest in peace. I knew them all, other than Varner.

Fundraiser for Tahl Leibovitz . . . and a Topps Card for Donators!
Here's the page. He's already won gold at the Paralympics, and his going for a repeat!!! Here's the USATT Tahl Leibovitz Bio and his USATT Hall of Fame page. PLUS - here's the added benefit. If you donate, you get a virtual Topps Card!!! Here's mine - I'm a star! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Michael Clarke RIP
He passed away from Covid-19 last week, age 73 but still an active player and coach from Baltimore. (Here's a Facebook posting that has his picture - he's in the middle. Here's the non-Facebook version.) He's mentioned and pictured in the USATT Gone, But Not Forgotten video, at the end. Here's an excerpt from my blog from Feb 13, 2017 where he and I did a clinic and exhibition for kids at the Potomac Recreation Center in Maryland:

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

Casting Call for a Sports Drink Commercial - Looking for Ping Pong Experts
Here's the info page on how to apply. They are looking for Ping Pong Experts who are ages 10-13 or 50+ years old, who can be in Los Angeles for one or more shooting dates in January. Deadline to apply is January 8, 2PM Pacific time. The ones chosen will be paid $2500 . . . and you'll be a professional actor!!!

New from Samson Dubina

8 Types of Hook Serves to Destroy Opponents!
Here's the video (15:27) from Ti Long.

Two-Way Multiball Training
Here's the video (30 sec) from Rahul Shah - a great way for one player to practice loop against backspin, the other counterlooping against an opening loop against backspin.

SPIN: Tips and Tactics to Win at Table Tennis
Here's the video (49:23) from Pingskills, where they interview Tom Lodziak, author of Spin: Tips and Tactics to Win at Table Tennis.

Table Tennis and Lateral Epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow)
Here's the article by Licensed Physical Therapist Aldin Soneja.

Covid-19 and Table Tennis: Which Type of Mask Should I Use?
Here's the video (16:16) from the Pong Professor.

The Backhands of Jimmy Butler and Jorgen Persson
Here's the video (9:15) from Jimmy Butler. It starts off with a rally between Butler and Daniel Tran that ends with a you-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it backhand smash by Butler, and then goes into a tribute to Jorgen Persson's backhand smash. (Persson was the 1991 World Men's Singles Champion.) Watch the reaction of Daniel when Jimmy smashes that backhand!

World #27 Tells Us Her Secret to Play Backhand and Many More Tips
Here's the video (14:28) from Pingponged TV, featuring world #27 Britt Eerland from the Netherlands.

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

Best Points of the Decade
Here's the video (37 min) from Table Tennis Destiny.

What Disease Does Ping-Pong Have the Potential to Prevent?
Here's the video (59 sec) - but the guesses by the competitors were also correct!

Table Tennis Talk Podcast | Episode 21
Here's the podcast (52:15) from Joey Cochran. "...we wrap up 2020 with some of the most anticipated tournaments of the year, the ITTF Finals and WTT Macao. This is the first WTT event and gives us a lot to look forward to next year. We also talk about the exciting new virtual reality table tennis game, Eleven table tennis."

New from Steve Hopkins

Peace on Earth
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

World Team Table Tennis Championships Cancelled After Three Postponements
Here's the article from Inside the Games.

ITTF News
Here's their home page and news page. Here are some highlights.

Santa Dimitrij Wishes You a Merry Christmas
Here's the picture from the world #12 (former #1 for two months in 2018)! (Here's the non-Facebook version.) One of your New Year's Resolutions has to be to learn to spell " Dimitrij Ovtcharov," right?

£500 Challenge from the World Champion
Here's the 1946 ad from four-time Men's Singles World Champion Richard Bergmann. (Here's the non-Facebook version.) That's £20,000 in modern money, or about $27,000.

Top 20 of 20
Here's the video (8:09) from Adam Bobrow - 20 mostly hilarious shots as he throws "snakes," lobs, and other shots at opponents.

Insane Table Tennis Cartoon
Here's the video (73 sec).

Funniest Moments 2020
Here's the video 12:37) from Pongfinity!

Funny Japanese Commercial - a Decahanded Player?
Here's the video (15 sec) - in case you ever wondered what it would be like to play with ten hands and paddles.

Ping-Pong Trick Shots
Here's the music video (1:46)!

Kids crazy Ping pong trick shots

Dinosaur Masked Pong
Here's the picture!

Baby Yoda Table Tennis

***
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December 21, 2020

Tip of the Week
Proper Strokes Are 1-2-3: Don't Forget the Neutral Position!

USA Table Tennis Museum
Wouldn't it be great to have one? A place where we could all learn about the greats of our past? Schiff and McClure. Miles and Reisman. Seemiller and Boggan. O'Neill and Butler. Cheng and Zhuang. Aarons, Fuller, and Green. Neuberger and Shahian. Martinez and Sweeris. Bhushan and Lee. Gao and Feng. And so on.

There are various table tennis collections around the country, there's the online USATT Hall of Fame, and Mike Babuin maintains the Cary TTA museum in North Carolina (but the link to the actual museum is no longer active) - and Mike just sent me a video of the Cary Museum (10:52). So maybe that's something we might build on? Or do we start something new? I'm talking about a really serious one, with a dedicated building and curator, like the ones they have for just about everything you can imagine. Here are some other museums, so why not table tennis?

There is an ITTF Museum in Shanghai, but that's a little tricky to commute to unless you're in China. USATT, Scott Gordon, Tim Boggan, Will Shortz, Paddle Palace, Mike Babuin, and many others have extensive table tennis historical collections, and I've got a lot as well, especially my table tennis book collection. (I'd seriously consider donating it to start up the Larry Hodges [Memorial?] Library Wing of the USATT Museum!) I'd love to see it all put together in some dedicated location, with an actual curator.

Here's a listing of just some of the top sports museums in the US. It includes skateboarding, mountaineering, mountain biking, polo, lacrosse, archery, in-line skating, and flyfishing. There are four on surfing alone!!! And this isn't even a comprehensive listing. There's even a Marbles Museum!!!

Notice what's missing? The Olympic Sport of table tennis.

Of course, writing about it is a lot easier than actually making it happen. For something like this, we'd probably need a wealthy owner or investor, or someone who knows how to raise money. Or just someone who is such diehard at such an opportunity that they'd do whatever it takes to make it happen. (Here's a web page on How to Start a Museum.)

So . . . who's going to do this?

Weekend Coaching
This Sunday we completed the junior group tournament we started last Sunday. The kids were in three groups by level, with ten in each group, and played a complete round robin. Due to new restrictions how many people could be in the playing hall at one time, I actually spent half the sessions in the back room working on my computer. Parents weren't allowed in for that same reason. When I was in the hall, I took extensive notes on their play.

During a break, I came up with a non-table tennis joke that I shared with the kids - though I had to write it out for them to see it. What do you have when a father dog in the capital of Bolivia lifts its front legs in the air and freezes? A La Paz pa's paws pause. They wanted more, so I gave them a follow-up: "You walk into a room and there are three gorillas in it. One is holding a banana. One is holding a knife. One is holding a smart phone. Who is the smartest in the room?" It was hilarious listening to them debate this, though most finally settled on the gorilla with the smart phone as the smartest. Then I said, "So the gorilla with the smart phone is smarter than the other two gorillas, and smarter than you, since you are also in the room?" (Note to self: Need to create a list of table tennis jokes to tell them.)

Political Table Tennis Cartoons
Here are two that I recently put together. When I say I put them together, that means I found images online, and then Photoshopped them. (So I didn't do the actual artwork.) If you are a Trump fan, you probably don't want to click on the first one. I warned ya!

Blast from the Past - Butterfly Europe 1970s Coasters . . . and My Meeting with Surbek
Here's a picture of six table tennis coasters from the late 1970s. Someone put up a picture of one of them, and so I ran to one of my shelves of table tennis stuff and found the complete set! They'd been in storage for the last 40 years or so. The six are the three Hungarians and the three S's - here's the picture of Jonyer, Gergely, Klampar, Secretin, Stipancic, and Surbek. My whole table tennis career is sort of bookended by my "meeting" Surbek in 1976, and meeting Jonyer at the 2018 World Veterans Games. With Jonyer, we just shook hands - a hugely memorable moment for me, just another Tuesday for him. Here's the story of me and Surbek.

I started playing early in 1976 at the late age of 16. I went to my first US Open that year, in July, in Philadelphia. One day I went out for lunch and sat at the bar. The place was jammed. Surbek and Milivoj Karakasevic walked in - and the only place to sit was on the two empty chairs on each side of me. So that's where they sat, with me in between!!! I didn't know at the time who Karakasevic was (top 20 in the world and father of Aleksandar, who would have been seven months old at the time), but I was fully aware that Surbek was #3 in the world and top seed at the tournament, which he'd go on to win. I'd been studying his game from a photo sequence in a Japanese book. I couldn't decide whether to get up and let them sit together, so I sort of just sat there, scared to death, while they leaned back and talked behind my back in Serbo-Croatian. I ate quickly and left, and then Surbek moved into my spot. Perhaps the most nerve-wracking moments of my table tennis life!!!

US Open and US Nationals Historical Results
Here is the page, www.ustabletennisresults.com, created by Vince Mioduszewski. It now has all results from every US Open and Nationals (even rating events!) 1933 to present. (I linked to it last week while it was still being updated.) All results are now up, but a number of scores and some results are still missing. Vince is working to get the missing data. Vince has been hard at work compiling all these results from old magazines (including a box I sent him, and from others), Tim Boggan's History of US Table Tennis (he bought the complete set of 23 books), and online results for more recent years.

USA Table Tennis Announces Election Results for Board of Directors' Positions
Here's the news item. Elected to the board were At-Large Members Thomas Hu and Dan Reynolds, and Club Representative Will Shortz. Congrats to the new members! (But see my cartoon above, Well, Ya Won the Election, Kid!)

Casting Call for a Sports Drink Commercial - Looking for Ping Pong Experts
Here's the info page on how to apply. They are looking for Ping Pong Experts who are ages 10-13 or 50+ years old, who can be in Los Angeles for one or more shooting dates in January. Deadline to apply is Jan. 8, 2PM Pacific time. The ones chosen will be paid $2500 . . . and you'll be a professional actor!!!

December Chop and Smash Blog 
Here's the article by USATT CEO Virginia Sung.

Free 6-Week Table Tennis Workout Program
Here's the info page from Peak Performance Table Tennis.

New from Samson Dubina

Snake Serve
Here's the video (8:35) from Adam Bobrow. At first, it sounds pretty basic, but it's actually pretty advanced - the serve he's teaching is my favorite serve - I do it all the time, and it's short and looks like backspin, but it's actually topspin. Players tend to push the serve, so it pops up - but even advanced players often misread it the first few times, and continue to be tentative against it even when they read it correctly. (Adam, stop giving away secrets!!!) Like his other videos, this is funny, but this time he's teaching something that can really help your game.

New from Tom Lodziak

Serve Technique: Ma Long Serve Analysis, Footwork Pattern
Here's the video (2:11) from inMotion Table Tennis.

How To Forehand Pivot
Here's the video (2:04) from Rachid El Boubou

Reverse Windshield Wiper Serve Tutorial | Short Topspin
Here's the video (6:49) from Joey Cochran at Table Tennis Junkie.

Don't Forget Flexibility
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

New Racket and Ball Colors
Here's the article from EmRatThich at PingSunday.

Here's Why Ma Long Is The Greatest Table Tennis Player Of All Time!
Here's the video (9:55) from Table Tennis Daily. One thing that jumped out to me while watching the action shots - note how on even his biggest forehands, he rotates in a circle, with head and body not moving forward. This keeps him balanced, maximizes centrifugal force, and keeps him in position immediately for the next shot. Many players move their bodies forward in this shot, and never understand why they have trouble doing two in a row.

Jim Butler Matches
You should go to Jim Butler's Facebook page and watch the almost daily videos he puts up of his practice matches. They are great - he edits out time between points, puts in background music, and often starts with something humorous, such as the tribulations of Huijing Wang's dog. He regularly plays Huijing Wang, with other videos of him playing Kewei Li, Robert Roberts, Linda Shu, and Daniel Tran.

ITTF World Professionals Make Debut at Chinese Table Tennis Super League
Here's the video (4:43), featuring Lily Zhang (USA), Adriana Diaz (PUR), Cheng I-Ching (TPE), Jeon Jihee (KOR) and Doo Hoi Kem (HKG).

Highlights with Sean, Tahl, Hank, Jimmy
Here's the video (3:34) from Sean O'Neill.

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

11 Years of ITTF - Global Sports Development Collaboration
Here's the ITTF video (2:03).

Three Thousand Days of Table Tennis
Here's the article by and about Will Shortz and his ongoing herculean feat!

New from Steve Hopkins

ITTF Statement on Matches Manipulation
Here's the statement.

ITTF News
Here's their home page and news page.

Bets, Lies and Table Tennis: How Police Pinged an International Pong
Here's the article from the Sydney Morning Herald.

Booba World Table Tennis Day
Here's the video - it's over two hours, but link should take you to 2:06, where there's ten seconds of "table tennis"!

Watchin' Sid & Nandan's Guest Appearance on Ryan's Mystery Playdate!
Here's the video (2:52) - "It's table tennis champs!" And that's a great entrance!

Ping Pong: Expectations vs. Reality
Here's the video (5:38) from Pongfinity.

Santa Claus Table Tennis
I found these for you so you don't have to! You're welcome.

Mostly Non-Table Tennis - "Pinning the Egg" and "The Pushovers of Galactic Baseball Fame"
My science fiction story, "Pinning the Egg," came out this week in the Sci Phi Journal. When a Murt egg lands on Earth, it's up to the resident Zinh to stop it before it hatches and destroys all life, as part of the galaxy-wide war between the malicious Murt and the Zinh defenders, with the taunting as nasty as the fighting. The story starts with a Go game with Emperor Qin in China 2200 years ago and then moves to England, where even Excalibur makes an appearance.

I also just sold another story, "The Pushovers of Galactic Baseball Fame," to Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction. It's the humorous story of baseball's spread through the galaxy, except instead of highly skilled players that make viewers feel inferior, they want the most uncoordinated, incompetent players possible, so the aliens feel good about themselves. Just how bad can a player be? Maybe I should have done this with table tennis spreading through the galaxy, where the "stars" were the worst players?

I actually have another story making the rounds, "The Beijing Galactic Table Tennis Championships." In it, table tennis has spread to the galaxy, and now they are holding the first Galaxy Table Tennis Championships - in Beijing - with aliens (mostly non-humanoid) from around the galaxy coming to compete. However, that story is rather long, over 10,000 words (about 40 pages double spaced), so a more difficult sale.

***
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